Atlantic, NC -- Schools
"Atlantic High School’s Teacher Training Department"
Elmo Gaskill Jr., principal of Atlantic Elementary School
In the 1920s there was a tremendous shortage of teachers in the state of North Carolina. In order to meet the needs, Teacher Training Departments were organized in high schools. As many as 20 counties had one of these programs between 1925-1930. Students had to meet the same requirements to enter a they would have at ECTC, Atlantic Christian or Appalachian State. The term of instruction was nine full months. The department did not compete with the colleges and normal schools because most of the students in the High School Teacher Training Program could not make financial arrangements to attend college. During the nine-month term the students observed other teachers and actually did practice teaching themselves. During the last six weeks of the nine-month course, the students were expected to organize and conduct a school of their own. The “guinea pigs” were usually students who would enroll in first grad the next year. So, in actuality, a six-week kindergarten class was organized by prospective teachers.
The State Department of Public Instruction wanted the programs to produce about 500 teachers a year to take care of the needs of rural schools.
In Carteret County, Atlantic High School was chosen to be the Teacher Training course center. Atlantic High School had many graduates who wanted to be teachers but the lack of money forced many to stay at home. The Teacher Training Department opened the way for many of the young women to further their education, get employable skills and fill the country’s need for teachers to staff the county schools, which numbered as many as 42 back then.
The Directory of the School Officials of North Carolina lists Berta P. Coltrane as the teacher trainer and Meriel Grovers as principal of Atlantic in December of 1925.
From information that I have received from the Department of Instruction, it appears that the program ran from 1925 to 1930. The Depression probably stopped the program’s finances. Each class averaged 12-15 students.
After the course was completed, each student was tested and granted a teaching certificate if they passed.
After graduating, the next year would find these new teachers at schools life Wire Grass, Lukens, Hog Island, White Oak, Bettie, Stacy, Lola, Roe, Batchelor, Bogue, Otway, Sea Level, Davis, Harkers Island and others.
Some of the students who went through this program boarded in Atlantic during the week and went home for the weekends. Transportation was still mainly by boat (often the mailboat) from Atlantic to Beaufort and other communities. Some cars were around but they were few in number and the bridges were not very good. The Teacher Training Department at Atlantic High School was a way out for the young ladies who wanted a profession, a way to make money and also a way to met eligible men in some of the other communities.
I had the opportunity to interview some of the participants in the Teacher Training Program who went through this experience more than 45-50 years ago and have recorded some of their comments.
Mrs. Francis Smith Lyons of Dundalk, Md., commented that she and cousin
Mattie Smith Durtin of Cedar Island took the program while waiting for
their opportunity to attend nurse’s training. They both completed
the course and then went on to nurse’s training in Atlantic City,
N.J. Francis said that Poppa John (her father) caught a lot of fish
that particular year and that was the only way she could afford to go
to school. Both of them became nurses.
Reprinted from the MAILBOAT, Winter 1991, Vol. 1, No. 4
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