Charged with overseeing all aspects of one-room schoolhouses, Iowa’s rural school teachers played an important role in the development of educational standards in the state. Superintendent of Public Instruction P.E. McClenahan stresses the importance of teachers’ recommendations in the 1919 edition of the State of Iowa Course of Study for Common Schools. He writes, “Teachers are asked to report criticisms . . . to the county superintendent of schools, so that when a revision is made, we may have the benefit of the experience of those who have to do the actual teaching.” The influence of rural school teachers in shaping educational policies and the minds of children throughout Iowa has earned these rural educators the distinction of being considered the cornerstone of Iowa’s educational history.
A brief look into the history of education in Iowa will yield examples of many influential and talented rural school teachers, both male and female. Aletha Hutchison (Jacobs), a native of Buchanan County, Iowa, is one such teacher. Like her educational peers, Hutchison (Jacobs) was dedicated to the education of her students and pursued the betterment of educational policies in Iowa through organizations like the Northeast Iowa Teachers’ Association. Her story offers a unique perspective on the history of education in Iowa. As a student and teacher in Iowa’s rural schools, she was able to experience all facets of rural school life.
Born in Buchanan County on July 5, 1884, Hutchison (Jacobs) attended Homer Township, #3 Mitchell before passing the standard Teachers’ Examination in 1902. After obtaining her teachers certificate, she embarked on her teaching career, which would span 58 years, 6 Iowa counties, and 2 states. In the state of Iowa, she taught in Benton County (1900-1902), Buchanan County (1902-1907), Black Hawk County (1912-1916), Grundy County (1916-1920), Wright County (1920-1921), and Webster County (1922). Records indicate that by 1922, she had married Elmer W. Hutchison. This event may have been the reason she left Iowa for Pennsylvania in 1922.
During this era, marriage often resulted in wives giving up employment opportunities located outside of the home. However, this was not the case for Hutchison (Jacobs). The Pennsylvania state school system received 38 years of service from her until she retired in 1960. During her time in Pennsylvania, she taught in the following schools: Hummelstown High School in Dauphin County (1922-1924) and Reamstown School in East Cocalico Township, Lancaster County (1926-1960). Despite her death in March 1974, the presence of Hutchison (Jacobs) can still be felt on the educational systems of Iowa and Pennsylvania.
A lengthy career in education allowed Hutchison (Jacobs) the opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of many. Evidence of her warm personality, compassion, and intelligence is able to be found throughout The Aletha Hutchison (Jacobs) Collection, recently obtained by the Center for the History of Rural Iowa Education and Culture (CHRIEC).