In the nineteenth century most teachers lacked the formal education expected today. Typically, rural schoolteachers had the equivalent of two or three year's high school education. Once a year, usually in the fall, the County Superintendent of Schools would set an examination day for prospective teachers. If an applicant passed the exam they would be issued a "Teacher's certificate" certifying they held the requisite knowledge to teach specific grades or subjects.
Many teachers continued to work toward a formal degree by attending a nearby Normal school when rural school classes were not in session. Many others, however, lacked the means or motivation to attend a Normal school. In an attempt to upgrade teacher's knowledge and teaching skills, a law was passed in Illinois requiring each County Superintendent to hold teachers institutes annually. The Superintendent organized institutes and teachers were expected to attend unless there was a legitimate reason not to.
The first institute held in Kendall County in 1883 included the study of topics required by Illinois law for a first grade certificate. Material covered included school law, school organization, and school management. Competent and experienced teachers were hired to teach these subjects. Prominent educators were brought in to lecture on educational topics. (Kendall County Record, July 19, 1883.)
Initially, the institutes were held once a year in a single time block. The first countywide teachers institute was held in the public school building in Plano for two weeks in July 1883. They continued to be held there until the meeting site was transferred to Yorkville's new school building in July 1888. As transportation improved, institutes were held twice a year for shorter periods of time. The last few years of their existence, institutes were held three times a year.
Beginning with the first institute in 1883 and continuing until the final institute held in Kendall County in 1917, lists of attendees for many of the institutes were compiled and published. The lists, published in local newspapers, are the source of the names on the following pages. A number of teachers institutes were held where names of the attendees were not published. The omissions noted were: July 1887; February 1891; December 1892; May and December 1893; April 1894; April and November 1895; October 1899; April and October 1900; April 1901; April and December 1903; and April and October 1904.
Beginning in 1918, the teachers of Kendall County attended teachers institutes, organized by the Kane County Superintendent of Schools, held in various places in Kane County. These attendees were not named.
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