Tuesday Trivia

Did an ancestor graduate from a Normal School? With a teaching degree or certificate?

Smithsonian Magazine, J/F 2019, provided this explanation: “Thank France; the phrase is derived from “ecole normale” which was used for institutions designed to instill standards of pedagogy and curriculum in teachers-to-be. America’s first state-sponsored normal school opened in Massachusetts in 1839. By the 1930’s most normal schools were calling themselves “teachers colleges.’

Near Spokane, Eastern Washington University began as Cheney Normal School. My mother-in-law graduated from Cheney Normal School in 1930 and at age 17 was sent out to teach English.

Cheryl Elder of Cheney was searching for more information on her great-aunt who attend this school in 1919. Charles V. Mutschler, PhD at EWU, answered her. (He is recently deceased.) His 2015 reply to her gives a good picture of what the curriculum was like:

“I have search the records we have, and only found one entry for Alice Elder of Garfield, Washington attending during the summer session of 1919.  The entry is on page 89 of the 1920-1921 catalog, in the list of students for the Summer, 1919 term.  The catalog carried a list of students for the previous year (occasionally previous two years) and a list of graduates, and the type of certificate they had received.  I checked the catalogs for 1916/17 through 1927/28 and only found the one entry.  The course of study at the normal schools in 1918 was a two-year curriculum leading to a teaching certificate which allowed the person to teach in what were called “the common schools,” meaning grades 1-8.  A teacher could continue her education and upgrade her certificate to what was called a Life Certificate by completing additional course work.  Many teachers did this, and often these women were the majority of the students enrolled in the summer term.  From 1923 through 1971 there was a yearbook, published each spring, called Kinnikinick.  The Kinnikinicks are nearly all on line at our digital commons site, but I have not attempted to search those, as they are readily available to you.  Go to:  dc/ewu.edu/yearbooks  and you should be able to reach them.

Now you know more than before about your ancestor’s attendance at a Normal School.

One comment on “Tuesday Trivia

  1. Sue Jensen says:

    The Seattle Genealogical Society Library has one copy of the Normal School yearbook: The Arrow, State Normal School Yearbook Spokane, 1925. Find it in our catalog and come in and see it! Here is the call # for the Yearbook: YRBK Spokane State Normal 1925 found in the Special Collections area in the front of the Library.

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