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February 6, 2009

North Bay celebrates 100 Years of Teacher Education


Nipissing University began celebrating 100 years of Teacher Education in North Bay with several events last week.  The support material for the event points out that the Ontario government wanted to improve rural education in Ontario and built four so-called Normal Schools in the early 1900s. in Hamilton, Stratford, Peterborough and North Bay to train teachers for these areas.  A delegation from North Bay went to Toronto in 1906 to make sure North Bay got a school for the north. 

North Bay Normal School – Then

In 1953 Normal Schools were renamed Teachers’ Colleges and eventually the programs  gravitated to Universities where they became Faculties of Education.  That happened in 1973 in North Bay when the Education Centre was established. The Faculty of Education became an independent degree granting-faculty in 1992 granting education degrees (Bachelor of Education or B.Ed.). 

North Bay Normal School – Now-Doug Mackey Photos

The information package on the North Bay Anniversary in Nipissing’s Review Magazine by Bob Pipe has some interesting math and some famous quotations.  One of my favourites by Henry Brooks Adams states that “A teacher affects eternity; he (?) can never tell where his (?) influence stops.” The math mentioned support the extent of that influence. North Bay has graduated some  17,000 teachers over the last century. With an average teaching career of 30 years and 30 students per class that comes out to over 12 million students. If each of those students went on to influence others the prospects are astounding. 

I was interested in this story as a teacher myself graduating from Hamilton Normal School in 1950 at age 19 and teaching for 36 years. My first job was principal of a 2 room rural school with 98 students, 48 of whom were mine in grades 5, 6, 7 & 8. My salary was $1,900 for the year. 

Nipissing University through its Institute of Community Studies and Oral History has done some remarkable work archiving the past of the Normal School and Faculty of Education. They interviewed past teachers and put the interviews on line for you to hear and have hosted various reunions as alumni initiatives. Remarkably they have accumulated the school year books from 1914 to 1994 under the direction of Sarah Clermont and have put them online for ready access (log on to nipissingu.ca/100) To print the whole book click on the cover. 

The North Bay Normal School building, so much a part of North Bay’s history, was preserved when the Ontario Ministry of Correctional Services added a huge modern addition and made it its head office in a move toward government decentralization. Again on another personal footnote I have an interest in the building having spent 22 years of my career in education as Director of Education and Director of Staff Training  in the former head office in Toronto and as the principal at  Cecil Facer School in Sudbury before retiring in 1987. 

There will be a reunion at the University for former graduates this summer on July 16-19. See website for details.  They are looking for graduates in general or sub groups of any sort that would like to meet.  Call 705-474-3450 ext 4573 or email alumni@nipissing.ca.  They will help set up the sub reunion for you including mailing invitations. 

The yearbook archives has been helpful to me on a number of occasions. When writing a story on North Bay artist Tom Cummings I knew he had gone to the North Bay Normal School. I found his picture with a large group of men and got the photo and the date.  The men and women were photographed separately. How things have changed! 

On another occasion I wrote about an unidentified photo album that had been found and prompted a search for the owner. It had some Normal School photos that led to the owner. One of the photos contained the photo of a former Normal School professor Grace Morgan who had a scholarship named after her.  See the article on October 12, 2004 on my website below. 

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