The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Fanny Jackson Coppin: An educator of educators

 

February 11, 2021



By Theron Hobbs, Jr. ©2021

There are millions of elementary and secondary classroom educators in the United States. These educators learn the techniques of teaching and get experiences in practicing how to educate others. This season of practicing is commonly known as student-teaching. Though student-teaching is a common practice in America, what’s uncommon is American people knowing that this vocational practice was created by an African-American woman named Fanny Jackson Coppin.

Coppin, born in 1837 under the name Fanny Marion Jackson, had a zeal for education at a young age. When Fanny turned 14 she took on a job. The job didn’t pay much, but she saved up her earnings to hire an academic tutor for herself. Once given the opportunity to attend school, she quickly demonstrated her insatiable desire for being educated and educating others.

After briefly attending public school for Black children, Fanny furthered her education by completing academics at Rhode Island State Normal School (now Rhode Island College). She didn’t stop there as she started an education at Oberlin College in 1860. During Fanny’s senior year at Oberlin College she organized literacy classes there to teach Blacks freed from slavery.

Upon graduating from Oberlin College, Fanny became a teacher of Latin, Greek, and mathematics as well as principal of the female department at the Institute for Colored Youth in 1865. She became principal of the entire institution in 1869, which made her the first African-American woman to hold that position in America.

Becoming the first African-American woman to be principal isn’t the only time Fanny made a mark on the United States education history. It was in 1878 when she revolutionized the vocation of being an educator by creating the practice-teaching system; this is the training which is currently and commonly called student-teaching. In addition to her system of educating educators, she also introduced an industrial training department that provided education in 10 trades.

In 1881 she married Reverend Levi J. Coppin, and would eventually serve as a missionary along with her husband in Africa. The newly Mrs. Coppin continued her role as principal at the Institute for Colored Youth until resigning from the position in 1902 after 65 years of service at the educational institution. She had such a profound impact on education that there is a current accredited university in her name, Coppin State University in Baltimore, Maryland.

Any person who has served as an educator since the 20th century on the elementary or secondary level can be thankful for Fanny Jackson Coppin. This African-American woman’s innovation regarding education created a nationwide culture of equipping people to be the best educators possible for the American classrooms.

Happy Black History Month!

Theron Hobbs Jr. is a Christian minister and humanitarian. Hobbs has a Bachelor's in Communication, Sports Broadcasting Certificate, Pastoral Ministry Certificate, and Master's in Pastoral Ministry. He served as pastor of Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church on Puget Island from 2013-2017. He and his family live in Des Moines, Iowa, where he is a community school coordinator.

 

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