The Normal Department, also called the Normal School, was an early Berea institution designed to train future teachers for the rural schools of the Kentucky Mountains. Courses were offered in a large variety of academic subjects, but the overall focus was to make capable, intelligent teachers. The program took approximately three years to complete. There were three courses provided: the county certificate course, state certificate course, and the state diploma course. Graduates thereby earned their teaching certificates and went on to teach or become administrative leaders for various educational institutions throughout Appalachia. Berea Normal School produced its first graduate in 1870.
Berea Normal School took great pride in the work of its graduates in the mountains. The school also placed a great deal of value on teaching young men and women bringing in students from the mountain. In a Normal School newsletter of 1904 E. F. Dizney wrote an article saying, “The teachers of this Department know the log school house, the bridgeless streams and the scattered children. They know the indifference of parents and poor facilities. They know the best way to prevent a slump of attendances is “fodder pullin” and molasses making.”
To earn their teaching certificates students were required to have at least eight units of high school credit. Many young men and women achieved this through Normal School in addition to being trained at Knapp Hall where many students practiced teaching grade school children under the direct supervision. Entering students were required to be at least sixteen years old, and certificates were not be issued to students under eighteen years of age. The Normal School was accredited by the Kentucky State Board of Education.
The Normal School classrooms and laboratories were held in the chapel. Housing for the female Normal students was provided at the Boone Cottage, Morningside Cottage and the Elizabeth Rogers Hall. Accommodations for the men were provided in the Howard Hall and Howard Annex.
In 1930 a new Kentucky law was passed preventing any student with less than 16 hours of college work from receiving a teacher’s certificate. The Normal School was not equipped to prepare students at this level. Thus its long service to the rural schools of Kentucky came to an end officially in 1931 under the President William J. Hutchin’s administration.