The Value and Significance of Teacher Certification: A Look at the Education Department of Baylor University 1931-1940

by Allison Everett

          Where would the world be without teachers? A profession steeped in history and a sense of respect, education has developed and changed throughout the course of history while remaining an integral part of modern society. They ways in which subjects are taught and how -teachers are instructed to teach these subjects are reflective of the time and culture. Throughout the 1930s, Baylor’s education department developed their curriculum by correlating with the Texas State Department of Education and their certification requirements, increasing their course offerings, and remaining relevant to the instructional times. Through culturally reflective curriculum, the introduction of an educational honor society, and the field enhancing work of prolific faculty, Baylor’s education department showcased the value and importance of teacher certification.

Baylor School of Education 

            The Baylor University Bulletin serves as a guide that provides the course offerings for each respective school year. Courses are listed by department, and information regarding Baylor’s various schools, faculty names, and the names of students are included for reference. In the 1931 Baylor University Bulletin, the School of Education stated that their purpose is to:

make its contribution to the training of professional workers in the educational field and to give to those who as college trained men and women, will exercise leadership in their respective communities, a much needed understanding of educational problems…as a professional school, it seeks to direct the educational choices of its students to the end that a maximum equipment for teaching may be secured from their professional and academic study, and incidentally that the students may be eligible to the several grades of state teachers’ certificates (p.             140).

The School of Education was concerned with the civic responsibility of its teachers to contribute to their profession as a whole and to the successful teaching of students. Baylor desired for its teacher candidates to gain the “maximum equipment for teaching” from their studies. This statement of purpose changes very little from 1931 to 1940 thus solidifying the School of Education’s foundation and desire for excellence in teacher education. Baylor establishes its education program as a valuable field of study.

Course Offerings 

          From the years 1931-1940, course offerings for students in Baylor’s School of Education greatly increased. Courses became more culturally relevant and specialized. Specifically, there was an increase in administrative courses, educational psychology courses, and the introduction of the physical and health education courses, which were not present in the 1931 catalog, but by 1940 there is an entire subsection dedicated to the field of physical and health education (Baylor University Bulletin, 1931, 1940).

Courses of particular relevance from the 1931 Baylor University Bulletin included: Modern High School Problems: “a careful study of some specific problems of the modern high school…each problem is analyzed and discussed in the light of present day practice and theory” (p. 147) The Elementary School Curriculum: “curricular implications of conflicting conceptions of education,” (p. 147) and The Teaching of Ideals which focused on the character development of the individual student (p. 152). These courses offered a wide variety of coursework that met the curricular needs of the time period.

Some courses of note from the 1940 Baylor University Bulletin included: Special Techniques of Teaching: “emphasis is placed on caring for the needs of individual pupils, the various plans of supervised study,” (p. 160) Orientation of Curriculum Revision: which focused on changes made regarding curriculum and prepared individuals to serve on curriculum committees, and Comparative Secondary Education: which compared secondary education internationally. Additionally, there were courses offered in both American and Texan educational history. With an increase from roughly 53 course offerings in 1931 to 67 courses in 1940 (not including specialized Physical and Health Education courses), Baylor’s education department worked to grow and stay relevant within the state teacher hiring landscape (Baylor University Bulletin, 1931, 1940).

Student Teaching

          An important course of study for education majors was student teaching, and partnerships formed with the Board of Education of Waco and area schools to allow students to go into the classroom and gain hands-on experience.

Such affiliation of universities and boards of education is found in many of our leading cities and is a fine example of the broad-minded cooperation in the common task of training teachers. It is likewise a splendid recognition on the part of the boards of education that they have some responsibility for producing teachers as well as for their employment. (Baylor University Bulletin, 1931, p. 144)

This town-gown partnership was a significant step in both teacher preparation and future employment giving both relevant and significant experience to teacher candidates.

Additional opportunities for student teaching were offered with partnerships with the county school system. A story from the Baylor Century of October 1939, states that Dr. Lorena Stretch the chairman of the school of education secured a partnership with the county school system Superintendent, J.E. Batson that would allow Baylor students to student teach in county schools in addition to previous Waco city school partnerships. Baylor students had previously worked with the county schools on advising with regard to testing, but before this time a student teaching partnership had not been established (The Century, October 1939). With these additional options for student teaching, Baylor teacher candidates could expand their options and gain a broader base of teaching knowledge.

Certifications and Requirements

          In order to certify to teach in the state of Texas, students had to meet many requirements in addition to simply completing their education courses.

State teachers’ certificates are granted by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, on the recommendation of the University, to students who satisfy the requirements of the state certificate law. Application to the State Department of Education is made through the Registrar of the University. (Baylor University Bulletin, 1931, p. 140)

State law enacted in 1921 provided for several different types of certifications ranging from four-year elementary certifications to permanent high school certifications. Differences in the requirements for each certification came down to courses taken, years of college experience, and in order to receive a permanent certificate, “three years of successful teaching” experience (Baylor University Bulletin, 1931, p. 141).

These certification types and basic requirements passed down from 1921 remained relatively the same throughout the course of the 1930s. However, changes in the State Department of Education within the 1934-1935 school year did call for revision and perhaps more rigor in education courses of study.

Teachers employed in State Aid Schools shall be required to have a minimum of two years of college training or the equivalent thereof and shall be required to hold a Texas State Teacher’s certificate of no lower standing than a six-year elementary or a four-year high school grade, provided that those teachers now in State Aid Schools not measuring up to this standard may continue to work in State Aid Schools, if they attend a standard State Teacher College or other standard college or university each summer until such standard shall be attained. In so far as is possible, teachers in State Aid School shall secure special preparation in the subjects or grades wherein they are employed to teach. (Baylor University Bulletin, 1940, p. 169)

Additional standards and regulation specifics were set for elementary and high school teachers. Based on this ruling, if an individual was to work in a school that received state funds, they must have a minimum of two years of college training in order to certify. Previously, shorter-term certifications could be awarded on simply one year of college. However, now education majors were required to complete at least two years and/or supplement with additional college work in order to equate to those two years. Thus, a teacher certification was worth more time, commitment, and work, and it required teachers to be more educated.

Committee of Placement of Teachers 

            Beginning around the year 1920, Baylor established a committee for the placement of teachers. Prior to this committee, Baylor would receive inquiries in regard to qualified teachers, and often times, those inquiries would go unanswered. So, a committee was formed to meet this need and create partnerships with schools in order to secure positions for teachers from Baylor (The Century, January 1940). Students within the department of education were given the opportunity to become a part of the committee for a small fee and in exchange those students could utilize the services of the committee; this is similar to the way a career services office might run in the 21st century. This committee became a key player and an integral part of the experience of Baylor’s education students.

It is the policy of the University to help all its students who are prepared to teach to secure suitable positions. A committee of the Faculty is appointed for this purpose. The work of this committee is a service to school authorities and the public, as well as the students of the University. Recommendations are made with scrupulous care, taking account of the students’ qualifications and the needs of the schools.

Students can not be guaranteed positions, but Baylor teachers of adequate academic and professional training are in demand, and the University takes special pride in the fact that many of its graduates occupy leading school position in the State. (Baylor University Bulletin, 1931, p. 145)

Through this committee, the Baylor department of education grew in its connections with the greater teaching community, and in January 1940, reporting from the 1939 school year came out which stated that the committee had contacts with 425 schools reporting vacancies, 302 teachers registered with the committee, and the committee sent out 2,366 sets of papers for these teacher candidates (The Century, January 1940). Data from the October 1940 Century stated, “Baylor graduates have little trouble securing teaching positions…nearly all of the June and August graduates have teaching positions, and…the remaining number may be employed during the month of October” (p. 27). As evidenced by the committees reporting, Baylor teacher graduates were achieving success and were, in fact, employable.

Educational Honor Society: Kappa Delta Pi 

            Prestige within the education department was recognized through a national, Greek honor society, installed May 29, 1929 that placed Baylor students within the national ranks of fellow exemplary teachers. The implementation of this organization highlighted how Baylor’s education department was moving forward and gaining respectability and prestige not only for the individual but for the department as a whole. “Kappa Delta Pi, a national honor society for students in education, is composed of students who meet rigorous standards not only in scholarship but as to the serious intent of their professional training” (The Round-Up, 1931, p. 128).

Kappa Delta Pi, 1931
Kappa Delta Pi, 1931
Courtesy of the Texas Collection

The Beta Xi Chapter brought in notable figures in education from the State Department of Education and scholars from the University of Texas. The organization served the needs of education students to have a space and group that both recognized and grew intellectual achievement within the realm of education. Social and professional features were provided to members, but the overall focus was recognition of achievement in education. From 1931-1940, the organization grew in purpose and sense of group construction, adopting a motto, and clearly stating the intent of the organization.

Kappa Delta Pi encourages in its members a higher degree of consecration to social service by fostering high professional and scholastic standards during a period of   preparation for teaching and by recognizing outstanding service in the field of education. Having for its motto “Knowledge, Duty, Power. (The Round-Up, 1940, p. 159)

Membership was limited to students majoring in education who ranked in the top ten percent of the student body, and meetings included social and professional aspects with emphasis on discussion of issues within the field of education (The Round-Up, 1940). The organization shined as a relevant piece of the greater education department and its emphasis on relevant, timely instruction.

Prolific Faculty: Dr. Lorena Stretch

            In the 1931 Baylor University Bulletin, Lorena Stretch is listed as M.A., Assistant Professor of Education, in 1932 she is listed as Associate Professor, and in both the 1937 and 1940 Baylor University Bulletins she is listed as the education department chair. According to The Century from April 1940:

Dr. Lorena B. Stretch has made her scholarship an amazingly practical asset to the curriculum interests of the schools of Texas.

KIC Image 1 (26)
Dr. Lorena B. Stretch
Courtesy of Texas Collection

Knowledge gained through her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at Baylor University and for her Ph.D. at George Peabody College for Teachers has been put to immediate and continuous use. From 1934-1939 Dr. Stretch was district consultant for Texas Curriculum Revision program. Since 1935 she has been chief consultant for Waco Public School Curriculum Revision program. She also serves on the Texas Mathematics Curriculum committee. (p. 5)

 

In addition to her credentials and chair position within the Baylor School of Education, Dr. Lorena Stretch was published in national educational journals and penned several books regarding teaching, curriculum, and the education of teachers. She was a present force within the curriculum community for educators and spoke often about the importance and significance of teacher education.

In an brief from the Daily Lariat entitled, “Goal Of All Education Is Character Development Says Dr. L. Stretch,” Dr. Stretch’s thoughts and reverence for the teaching profession are highlighted as she spoke to a community organization.

Dr. Lorena Stretch, head of the Baylor education department, told members of the Rosenthal Parent Teacher association that the goal of all education is character development, at a meeting Thursday evening at the school in discussing “Character Development”.

A parent does not send his child to school merely to learn reading, writing or arithmetic, to get knowledge for its sake alone, but that the child may learn every phase of social and cultural development, she said. (Daily Lariat, 1937, March 23, p. 2)

Dr. Stretch perceived education for students as something beyond knowledge for the sake of knowledge alone. Instead, education served as a way of developing students as people. Social and cultural development were clearly a  part of the teaching process.

In another story from the Daily Lariat, Dr. Stretch spoke to the Baylor community on the significance and purpose in choosing one’s vocation. The section is entitled, “Stretch Lectures on Choosing Work: Freshman Hear Advantages Of Becoming Teachers in Chapel Period”.

“In choosing a vocation,” said Dr. Lorena Stretch, chairman of education, to the freshman Wednesday at chapel, “one must know that there is an opening for him before he takes up his vocation.

Every year there are 105,000 openings for school teachers in spite of the fact that there are already 1,000,000 teachers in the United States. Every teacher draws a yearly salary from $435 to $25,000, and a Baylor graduate would have a better chance at the $25,000, she said.

Agriculture, construction, and railroads employ the largest number of professional and skilled men, and the school teaching come forth, Dr. Stretch pointed out. Agriculture, construction, and railroads require capital while school teaching requires a college education, which in itself would be beneficiary to the individual, she said, and for the other vocations a college education is not essential. (1937 November, 19, p. 2)

A college degree is essential to school teaching, and a Baylor graduate would be eligible for the higher end teaching salary according to Stretch. There was an obvious need for teachers, and Baylor’s education program was working to meet that need.

From her statements it is evident that Dr. Lorena Stretch had strong feelings and a sense of significance for her profession, the overall aim of education, and in educating future teachers at Baylor; her work made an impact. Her textbooks were used in the classrooms and as chair of the department, her attitude and achievements permeated the culture of the department. She taught many of the significant courses at Baylor during this time period not just in elementary education but in the realm of education for character. Dr. Lorena Stretch took her vocation seriously and worked to instill that same significance for the work of education into her students; thus enhancing and highlighting the value and importance of teacher certification.

Conclusions 

          In conclusion, the ways in which subjects are taught and how teachers are instructed to teach these subjects are reflective of the time and culture. Throughout the 1930s, Baylor’s education department developed and adapted their curriculum by combining with the Texas State Department of Education and their certification requirements, increasing their course offerings, and remaining relevant to the instructional times. Through culturally reflective curriculum, the introduction of an educational honor society, and the field enhancing work of prolific faculty member Dr. Lorena Stretch, Baylor’s education department showcased the value and importance of teacher certification and emphasized the prestige of the teaching profession.

References

Baylor University. (1931). Baylor University Bulletin. Waco, TX: Baylor University.

Baylor University. (1932). Baylor University Bulletin. Waco, TX: Baylor University.

Baylor University. (1937). Baylor University Bulletin. Waco, TX: Baylor University.

Baylor University. (1940). Baylor University Bulletin. Waco, TX: Baylor University.

Baylor University. (October 1939). The Century. Waco, TX: Baylor University.

Baylor University. (January 1940). The Century. Waco, TX: Baylor University.

Baylor University. (April 1940). The Century. Waco, TX: Baylor University.

Baylor University. (October 1940). The Century. Waco, TX: Baylor University.

Daniel, P. (Ed.). (1931). The Round-Up 1931. Jefferson City, MO: The Senior Class of Baylor University, Waco-Dallas; Botz-Hugh Stephens Press.

Dillard, J. (Ed.). (1937 November 19). “Stretch Lectures on Choosing Work: Freshman Hear Advantages Of Becoming Teachers in Chapel Period”. The Daily Lariat. Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.baylor.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/lariat/id/39792/rec/19. The Texas Collection, Baylor University, Waco, TX.

Provence, H. (Ed.). (1937 March 23). “Goal of Education is Character Development Says Dr. L. Stretch.” The Daily Lariat. Retrieved from http://digitalcollections.baylor.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/lariat/id/34620/rec/17. The Texas Collection, Baylor University, Waco, TX.

Reddell, B. (Ed.). (1940). The Round-Up 1940. Jefferson City, MO: The Senior Class of Baylor University, Waco-Dallas; Botz-Hugh Stephens Press.

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