Ruth’s Going to be a Teacher

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Friday, June 30, 1911: Rufus is going to teach school next winter, as she has just been elected to that office. Am glad.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

I haven’t been able to figure out where Grandma’s sister Ruth taught school during the 1911-12 school year, but it apparently was at a nearby one-room school house.

Ruth had just graduated from high school in May 191. A hundred years ago teachers were only required to have a high school diploma—though there was a movement toward encouraging teachers to complete a program of study at a normal school. At that time teacher preparatory schools were called normal schools, and the program of study was typically 2 years.

Since Ruth did not go to normal school she must have passed a examination that qualified here to become a teacher. She would have been a “provisional” teacher and paid at the lowest level.

In 1911 schools were primarily controlled by school boards and other local governments. There was a lot of tension over how much control the state should have over schools—though the state was beginning to regulate teacher licensure.

The state of Pennsylvania adopted teacher certification requirements on May 18, 1911:

Provisional—passed exam in spelling, reading physiology and hygiene, English grammar, arithmetic, elementary algebra, history of the US and PA, civil government including state and local government, school management, and methods of teaching.  One year duration—could be renewed 4 times.

Professional—Two years successful teaching. Passed two additional exam from the list of: vocal music, drawing, English literature, plane geometry, general history, physical geography, elementary botany, elementary zoology, or elementary physics. Must have “carefully and intelligently read” two books on pedagogy on approved list from state Superintendent of Public Instruction.

State normal school certificate: Issued to graduation of state normal schools. After 2 years teaching teacher receives permanent state certificate.

Permanent state certificate: Hold professional certificate, 2 years experience, passed all exams, read 4 books on pedagogy,  Passed exam in all subject areas listed for provisional and professional certificates—Exams held once a year by Examining Board appointed by state superintendent.

Jack Williams in A Historical Study of Education in Milton Pennsylvania

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