School of Education History

Students from 1924

SPU has been educating students to serve others throughout the region and around the world since 1891. For 100 years, the School of Education has been an integral part of this legacy by preparing outstanding educators. Today, the School of Education draws upon its rich history to address the current and complex needs of students, families, schools, and communities.

The Early Years

From its infancy, teacher training at Seattle Pacific thrived. The Normal School, as it was called then, began in 1921 with formal curriculum, facilities, and faculty. Its establishment was one of President Orrin Tiffany's primary goals as a way of serving the families in the region. Organized and directed for the next 19 years by the legendary Candis Nelson, the teacher-training program progressed rapidly, and in 1922 a joint committee from the University of Washington and the Washington State Department of Education voted for its formal accreditation.

During its first year, there were two graduates of the Normal School’s two-year course of study. By 1940, there were 27 graduates of a three-year curriculum and 41 graduates of a four-year curriculum. Guided by another great leader-educator, Vivian Larson, the program continued to produce teachers, in rapidly growing numbers, who earned a reputation as among the finest in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

The first Master of Education degree was awarded at the end of the 1954–55 school year. In 1973, Seattle Pacific created the School of Education in recognition of the increasing numbers of programs being offered and students being served in the discipline of education.

In 1976, the continuing education program was initiated, and the first doctoral degree program was begun in 1993 at the request of school superintendents in the region. SPU’s first online master's degree program was established in 1999.


The original teacher education program has grown into a School of Education offering undergraduate and post-baccalaureate teacher certification, doctoral programs, master's degree programs, graduate certification programs, an online program that allows students anywhere in the world to earn their MEd degree, and a Center for Professional Education.

While many students train to become teachers, others prepare for roles as school counselors, principals, superintendents, district office personnel, or professors in higher education. In all, thousands of educators have graduated from Seattle Pacific over nearly a century — making SPU one of the five Washington colleges and universities that have graduated the most educators.

1923 graduates of the Normal School

Early Graduates

The Normal School graduates of 1923 helped initiate a long tradition of SPU educators.