Early schoolteachers in Georgia often received their training at what was known as normal school. Normal schools were established in Georgia toward the end of the 19th century to prepare teachers to teach elementary aged students. It was usually a two-year program and the term “normal” referred to establishing clear standards or “norms” for public schools.
Normal schools for teacher training were set up in the northeastern part of the United States in the early to mid-19th century. In Georgia, it was in the late 1800s. Some normal schools were later called teaching colleges.
Nettie Southern Austin, who taught at the early Dunwoody School for many years, received her teacher training at the State Normal School in Athens, Georgia. Austin Elementary School is named in honor of Nettie Austin. Mrs. Austin is still remembered fondly by her students and is often referred to as their favorite teacher.
Annie Houze Cook also attended the State Normal School. She began teaching in 1910 at Crossroads School where Mount Vernon Highway and Powers Ferry Road meet in Sandy Springs. Later, she taught at Hammond School and then opened her own kindergarten at Providence Baptist Church in Sandy Springs. There are many who remember her fondly as well.
Teachers also came from women’s colleges across the state. Long-time teacher at Brookhaven School, Louise Davis, attended Agnes Scott College. She came to Brookhaven School immediately after completing her education in 1927 and remained there for 25 years, eventually serving as principal.
The Georgia Legislature passed a bill in 1892 to create a State Normal School, however no funds were appropriated for its operation. The University of Georgia gave $1,000 toward the effort and a few private donations were made.
A separate school was set up because women were not allowed to attend the University of Georgia at that time. The school was housed in the only building available, a building known as the old Rock College. Teachers went to class, ate meals, studied and slept in this building. (Atlanta Constitution, December 4, 1904)
Some of the requirements for the teacher candidates included a minimum age of 17, good moral character and good health. They also were required to pledge to teach after attending normal school. The school was free to Georgia residents and $50 for non-residents. (Atlanta Constitution, April 18, 1895)
Before there was a State Normal School in Athens, there was a normal school in Milledgeville known as Georgia Normal and Industrial College. The college opened in 1889 as a two-year college for teacher training and business skills for women.
In 1922, Georgia Normal and Industrial College became Georgia State College for Women. The college became coeducational in 1967 and is known today as Georgia College and State University.
The name given to the early teacher’s school lives on in Athens, in an area known as Normaltown. Even businesses carry the name, such as Normal Hardware and Normal Bar.