Greenberg is at her storytelling, hortatory best when involving her characters in isolating circumstances-- ``abnormalities'' of birth (the plight of the blind and deaf in the moving Of Such Small Differences, 1988) or, as now, of poverty and also an ideological stance that goes against the tide. Here, a dedicated elementary-school teacher in a Colorado mountain town- -after nearly five decades of work--is subject to humiliation and defeat. Clara Coleman, born a poor ``Gulch'' child in an old mining town, of a cruel and doomed mother, works hard to get an education, then finds her dream of teaching answered when, after WW II, she's appointed to a rural one-room school in the mountain town of Gold Flume. Clara's fiery enthusiasm for learning reaches into the class-ridden community, the parents, and children--``Town,'' ``Ranch,'' and the poor ``Gulch'' children with their sores and bruises, their own argot, their stunted lives. Then the town grows; Clara becomes the principal of a new, large school while Gold Flume becomes a tourist ski area. Wealthier, demanding outsiders move in, and the climate of public education changes: Parents want soccer, not poetry, and insist on computer training for fourth-graders who ``can't sing the national anthem [and don't] know where Europe is.'' Moreover, Clara's young teachers (who never memorized the Preamble to the Constitution or anything else) declare ``there's not much interest in outer space'' when Clara suggests a program to mark a total eclipse. Clara married a good man (who had his own awful childhood); they have three children; and good friends (and enemies) are made. But the battle over public education finally takes center stage in Clara's public defeat and personal triumph. The villains are heavy, heavy, but, still: an accessible tale offering plenty of ammo for the many presently grumbling about the state of our schools.