Schools Days in 1800s Breckenridge
Special to the Daily
As soon as women began arriving in Summit County in greater numbers, the establishment of schools became a high priority. Although not everyone thought schools a necessity, the commitment to provide educational opportunities for children crossed economic levels. In 1871, classes began in the first schoolhouse in town, a 25×20-foot building at the corner of Wellington and Main on the west side of the street (close to where the Wellington Parking Lot is today).
When enrollment exceeded the capacity of that building, the town voted on March 18, 1882, to sell $7,000 in bonds to purchase land for the construction of a larger schoolhouse. Completed later that same year, the two-story wooden schoolhouse stood on the southwest corner of Lincoln Avenue and Harris Street.
Teaching was an occupation open to women. People felt that women were especially suited for the profession because teaching was an extension of their role as mother.
Both married and unmarried women taught in Breckenridge. Townspeople watched women teachers constantly, looking for improper behavior. Unmarried women often boarded with a family and sometimes had to perform household chores as part of their employment.
Although many believed that few men entered the teaching profession because of low wages, the 1880 census enumerator counted more male schoolteachers in the county than women.
Those wishing to be teachers could take the examination offered four times each year in the superintendent’s office. Questions focused on science, grammar, the classics, geography, mathematics and history. Scores appeared in the newspaper. Scores for monthly examinations given to the students also appeared in the newspaper, as did their deportment grades.
Teachers welcomed parental participation. The newspaper editor reported on the progress of the children and the expertise of their teachers. Usually the editor praised the teachers, but not always. In one issue he wrote: “Politics is a poor subject to introduce by a teacher in the presence of scholars, and teachers should avoid it. We are sorry to say they do not at this altitude. A lady teacher may or may not like a political party her opinions are her own, but of no earthly account to her scholars and she has no business to intrude her views, whims or prejudice on them.”
Teacher training and classroom environments might differ between the late 1800s and today, but the goal is the same – the best education possible for every student.
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