Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Research Tip: Indiana Teacher Licenses

By Meredith Thompson

Were any of your ancestors Indiana teachers? If so, they may have passed down their teaching certificate. (Pictured below: a certificate issued by the state to Edna G. Nowland in 1911.)

A teacher's certificate issued to Edna G. Nowland in 1911 by the state. (Courtesy of the Plainfield-Guilford Township Public Library Archives.)

Beginning in the mid-1800s, if someone wanted to be a teacher, they had to apply to get a teacher's license, which could be issued either by the county or the state.

If it was issued by the county, the license could only be used for teaching in that particular county - a move to another county meant they would have to apply for another license. If it was issued by the state, however, the license was good for teaching in any county. Testing for county licenses was offered by the county's school superintendent; for statewide licenses, the testing was available at the office of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction in Indianapolis and at the offices of school superintendents in select cities.

The process of getting a teacher's license involved an individual evaluation, as well as passing exams in various subjects. Think you could have passed those exams? Pictured below are the questions from the Arithmetic exam in 1913.
The questions asked in the Arithmetic exam in 1913. (Courtesy of the Plainfield-Guilford Township Public Library Archives.)
The lower the average grade you received on the exams, the shorter the time that your license would last. In 1910, for example, licenses were issued for:
  • 12 months - if your average grade was 85% or more, with none of the grades below 75%
  • 24 months - if your average grade was 90% or more, with none of the grades below 80%
  • 36 months - if your average grade was 95% or more, with none of the grades below 85%
The back of a 1911 teacher's certificate, showing the grades received on the two exams. (Courtesy of the Plainfield-Guilford Township Public Library Archives.)

In the certificate above, Edna G. Nowland's license in 1911 was issued for 36 months, and was for teaching 2 subjects (Literature and Composition and the Science of Education) at the high school level. The back of the certificate shows that she received a grade of 95% on the Literature and Composition exam and 91% on the Science of Education exam, plus 97% on her individual evaluation.

If records exist of the teacher's licenses that were issued on the county level, they will be found in the records of the county.

For the licenses that were issued on the state level, they will be found in the records of the State Board of Education and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The annual reports of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction used to regularly include the lists of those who had received their teacher licenses. Some of these reports have been digitized and are available for free online at sites like Google Books.

For IGS members: The Statewide Records section of the IGS website has information on teachers who received licenses from the state during 1867-1884 and 1906-1910.

[This article originally appeared in Indiana News, IGS's FREE monthly email newsletter. Click here to subscribe and have articles like this delivered straight to your inbox!]

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