In a time when higher education is expected before entering any professional field, it's easy to forget that less than 100 years ago, education was reserved for the elite. Teaching, in turn, was not regarded as an elite profession. In fact, until the late 19th century, undergraduate teaching required no special preparation. Yet even at the turn of the century, Drury valued and was committed to serving perhaps the most unappreciated but vital class of professionals: teachers.
When Drury organized its first summer school in 1900, its goal was to help local teachers by providing convenient opportunities for college-level study in a variety of disciplines. Fifty-eight teachers enrolled that first year, and the program grew to 130 students by 1905, when the program ended. Drury students were among the very few in southwest Missouri to be certified by the State Superintendent of Public Schools to teach at the secondary level - and the only ones approved for higher certification.
Amid a growing recognition that teachers should indeed have professional training, Drury again took progressive steps and announced in 1908 that it would add a department of pedagogy. William O. Allen, Ph.D., was named professor of education in 1909 and proved an important leader in his four-year tenure at Drury. Allen emphasized preparing departmental teachers for high schools rather than the generalized practitioners prevalent to that point. He also developed a curriculum geared toward meeting the state teacher's certification requirements. Allen's curriculum served as a model and closely resembles the national standard for teacher education curricula for the next 50 years.
But Drury's focus wasn't restricted to its own students; it displayed an early commitment to helping improve the public school system by commissioning professors to spend at least one week per semester in another city, helping the school there to update its accreditation status.
In 1913, many teachers had little or no college-level preparation and often discovered that they could not be admitted to a college without repeating their high school education in an accredited school. So in 1914, an Extension Division was created with the specific intent of making it easier for teachers, who couldn't attend regular classes, to pursue further education. The new program was progressive; no formal exams were required. Under the leadership of Dr. L.E. Meador, Drury offered 18 one-semester courses that met only on Saturdays, along with a series of shorter "lecture-studies" that met in smaller, local community groups. Students who had already met Drury's entrance requirements would be awarded college credit for successfully completing the courses.
The summer sessions that had ended in 1905 were revived in 1916, led by Dr. B.F. Finkel, and professors at Drury taught 6-week, fully accredited courses. Again, their goal was to provide a professional boost to those in education. To make this service more easily accessible and attractive, Drury again waived the entrance exams and offered a wide variety of subjects explicitly selected to meet the needs of superintendents, principals and teachers. Faculty for these courses consisted of 10 professors and five high school teachers proven in their specific field of study - perhaps the earliest example of partnership between Drury and area teachers.
That same year marked an early shift toward a blend of liberal education and the more practical professional preparation, a blend that continues to distinguish Drury even today. At Drury, the teacher education program was the first to implement this framework of courses that provided common cultural foundation, courses in a particular field of study or major, and electives.
Drury has built on its progressive legacy in teacher education. When requirements for teacher certification were updated after World War II, Drury's recently established adult education program was prepared to meet the needs of area teachers who, faced for the first time with the necessity of having a college degree, signed up for courses in education and liberal arts.
The demand for graduate studies in education also grew in the late 1940s, and the department of education again rose to the challenge. President James Findlay appointed a Faculty Committee on Graduate Study in 1950, and in 1951 the faculty voted in favor of the committee's resolution to establish a graduate program. The program began with twenty graduate students in the 1952 summer sessions and grew to 117 by 1955. Today, more than 2,900 people hold a Drury master of education degree.
Drury has kept pace and remained a respected entity in teacher education in part through special courses of study, including Missouri's first center for gifted education, established in 1986, and also by attracting and working together with area elementary, middle and high school teachers.
As we embark on a new millennium, Drury's teacher education program continues its commitment to excellence with the mission "to develop liberally educated professionals who are prepared to make informed, reflective decisions, help others learn and add value to the lives of children in a rapidly changing world." That dedication is passionately embodied in the professors and pre-service teachers who go above and beyond to invest in the lives of their students - who believe in and live out the School of Education and Child Development's motto: "Dedicated Teachers Make the Difference."