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Women of USU: Then and Now, Women in Education

Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019


Historical photo of Sabina Hermione Hart

Sabina Hermione Hart completed her college education in the spring of 1897. That fall, she obtained a teaching position at a school in Utah County, where she taught until spring. Hermione returned to Logan and took a three months' post-graduate course.


View of Bear Lake

In 1906, Sabina was elected as the County Superintendent in the Bear Lake County District and re-elected in 1908. It was not uncommon for women to hold these top administrative slots in the early 20th century.

Since its earliest days, women at Utah State University have had a huge impact on the cultural, scientific, economic, and social fabric of the institution. The Year of the Woman shares these critical voices simply because their stories matter.

Then: Sabina Hermione Hart, 1897 

Sabina Hermione Hart was born in 1875 in Salt Lake City, Utah, but grew up in Bloomington, Bear Lake County, Idaho. According to her family, there were no good schools in Bear Lake County at the time, so Hermione, as she was called, was taught to read at home. In the 1909 publication U.A.C. Graduate, featuring profiles of alumni, she noted that she had read Oliver Twist and Old Curiosity Shop before ever entering a schoolhouse. By the time she enrolled at Utah Agricultural College (UAC) in 1892, she had attended only four years of district schools.

Hart attended two years of school at UAC, studying Domestic Science and participating in military drill, the Longfellow Literary Society, and debates. “To say I was astonished and delighted with the school and its work is to put it mildly.” In 1894, she taught 75 pupils at a school in Bloomington, Idaho. The following year, she re-entered the UAC after Christmas. With hard work, she was able to make up all of the work from fall term in addition to the current term's work. She said, “I was kept so busy that I had little time for social pleasures and was glad when vacation came.” 

Hart completed her college education in the spring of 1897. That fall, she obtained a teaching position at a school in Utah County, where she taught until spring. Hermione returned to Logan and took a three months’ post-graduate course. Following her completion of this program, she taught summer school in Afton, Wyoming. Autumn found her back in Logan, this time teaching instead of attending school. She served as Second Vice-President of the UAC Alumni Association in 1905-06. Over the next few years, she moved around to different school districts. 

In 1906, Sabina was elected as the County Superintendent in the Bear Lake County District and re-elected in 1908. It was not uncommon for women to hold these top administrative slots in the early 20th century. In 1930, when the schools were primarily rural, women led many of the nation's countywide districts. Even though K-12 education continues to be largely a female enterprise, men dominate in leading the nation's nearly 14,000 districts. Only 25% are women, which is an improvement over 2000 when 13% were women. In Utah, the number of female superintendents can be counted on one hand. Nationally, women make up 76 percent of teachers.

Hart’s role led her to travel “in the cause of Education” to Boise, Lewiston, and Cleveland, Ohio, considerable distances for someone from southeastern Idaho. In February of 1911, she married David Ephraim Roberts and passed away later that year; her grave is in the Bloomington Cemetery in Idaho, near the north shores of Bear Lake.

Now: Christine Allen Kearl, 1980

Retired and living near the south end of Bear Lake, Dr. Christine Allen Kearl reached the highest levels of public education during her career as a teacher, administrator, and education leader in the Office of the Governor. She started her career path by completing a degree in math education from USU with teacher licensure in 1980. Teaching in Vernal and then in Laketown, she quickly won awards for outstanding teaching and leadership. She advanced in administrative leadership roles from Assistant High School Principal in Rich High School in Randolph, Utah, to the Principal of Rich Junior High and North Rich Elementary, rising to Superintendent of the Rich County School district in 1998. She was for some time the only woman school superintendent in the state.

In 2004, she was tapped to serve as Deputy State Superintendent for the Utah Department of Education, overseeing student achievement, school success, and curriculum and instruction as well as Career Technical Education, Special Education and Student Services, and assessment. Governor Jon Huntsman invited her to be his Education Deputy, and she moved to the State Capitol Building in 2005, where she served through his administration and that of his successor Governor Gary R. Herbert. She admired Governor Huntsman’s agenda of lifelong learning. Her practical experience in the classroom and administrative offices informed her work as she served on numerous state and national groups and co-chaired with Governor Herbert his Education Excellence Commission. She was the voice of education for the state of Utah, speaking on a weekly basis to the public and schools and colleges. Her travel in the cause of education took her to national and international sites, and, likewise, global groups studying U.S. education regularly met with her. 

In 2012, she completed a “lifelong dream” in concluding a PhD for which she wrote a dissertation on Utah’s New Century Scholarship Program, with the mentorship of Professor Deborah Byrnes. She dedicated the work to her mother, “who instilled a love of learning as a child” and to her father who took her to first USU basketball game at the age of six in the Nelson Field House. She said that she “fell in love with USU and has been a fan ever since.” 
 


Writer:

  • - Joyce Kinkead, Professor, Co-Chair, Department of English, 435-797-1706

Media Contact:

  • - Joyce Kinkead, Professor, Co-Chair, Department of English, 435-797-1706

Additional Resources:




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