On March 22, 1890, the legislature of the newly minted Washington State granted Cheney the state’s first Normal School. Normal School was the designation used for a school or college whose purpose was the training of teachers. Cheney’s Normal School would go through many name changes and evolutions, eventually becoming Eastern Washington University, but from that time on education would be the central focus of Cheney.
The Normal School officially opened on October 13, 1890, and the Training School of the Normal School followed in January of 1892. The Training School was an important part of a teacher’s education because it gave them actual teaching experience. Initially the school contained pupils from grades one to four, but more grades would be added later.
Cheney, of course, had previously established a public school for educating children, so naturally there was competition between the public school and the Training School as to which school students would attend. Mrs. Rose Rice Turner, who was principal of the Training School for a time, stated in a letter to James Orin Oliphant, “As I remember it, we were not legally entitled to any of the children of the district for our Training School, but were dependent upon the good will of the directors.” Because of this, the principal of the Cheney public school, W.B. Ball would simply pass off troubled students when the public school was overcrowded. However, many parents wished to support the Normal School and its mission to train teachers and so requested that their children attend the Training School. In this way, the Training School had many “exemplary and delightful students” in addition to those sent over by Mr. Ball.
The Training School played a significant role in educating teachers. After all, the initial requirement for senior Normal School students was twenty weeks of teaching practice. The Training School provided a place for young teachers to put everything they were learning at the Normal School to practice.