Teachers at rural schools like Cheam View

In the 1940s, when this picture was taken, most of the teachers in rural schools were women. During this period, novice teachers were trained at one of the provincial Normal Schools. Students from the Greater Vancouver area and the Lower Mainland (south of Yale) were enrolled at the Normal School in Vancouver; students from elsewhere in the province attended the Normal School in Victoria.

Although trainee teachers received a few courses in "rural education," the reality of the rural school experience was a shock for many of them.  Indeed, novice teachers who had grown up in urban centres like Nanaimo, New Westminster, Vancouver or Victoria were often appalled by the primitive conditions they faced in one-room schools like Cheam View.

Information about conditions in these schools, and teachers' impressions of the schools and the communities the schools served, is available in records compiled by the Department of Education's Teachers' Bureau in the 1920s [catalogued in the British Columbia Archives as GR 461].

The records include a questionnaire completed by Miss Mary McLeod, teacher at Cheam View, in 1923 [GR 461, box 1, file 2].

Rural schools and the experiences of rural school teachers have been examined at length in several books and articles. For details, consult The Homeroom Bibliography, especially the section on Rural Schooling.

This picture was located in the British Columbia Archives [Accession No. I-00524]. The reference notes for the photo do not identify the teacher, but possibly it is Miss M. G. A. Cracknell or Ada Martinson.  According to the Annual Reports of the Public Schools of British Columbia, Miss Cracknell was the teacher at Cheam View during the 1944/45 school year. She held a Temporary Teachers' Certificate and earned $1,170 that year. Ada M. Martinson was in charge of the school during the 1945/46 school year. She was paid $1,200, a typical annual salary for a newly-qualified teacher with a First or Second Class certificate.

Where did Miss Cracknell and Ada Martinson train, in Vancouver or Victoria? The question could be resolved by consulting the registers of the Victoria Normal School (1927-1956) and the Vancouver Normal School (1938-1956). The registers are held by the British Columbia Archives and are accessioned as GR 1752.

The qualifications of the teachers at Cheam View can also be confirmed by consulting provincial teachers' certificate registers, GR 1471 in the British Columbia Archives.

cheam school > pupils >

This sketch is an example of how government publications and archival records can be used to retrieve something of the rural school experience in British Columbia.