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The first class of 33 students at the Territorial Normal School in 1886 was greeted by its first teacher and principal, Hiram Bradford Farmer. This initial student body included 16-year-old students with no high school education, since there were no high schools in the Arizona Territory. Farmer's early efforts were spent establishing the school's core curriculum.
He wanted students to be well grounded in the basics of reading, writing, spelling, grammar, arithmetic, geography, and United States history. Students also took classes in philosophy, Latin, rhetoric, English literature, and the philosophy of education. Farmer gave out diplomas to only 5 students in his three semesters as teacher-principal to students of varying ages and experiences - not because of a lack of students, but because he would reward no student who failed to satisfy his academic standards.
In his view, unprepared teachers would be of no value to the communities nor to the students they served. Principal Farmer is credited with establishing the Territorial Normal School's first practice teaching program, and he put his advanced students to work teaching the lower classes. It is Farmer who is credited for establishing the Territorial Normal School's reputation as a viable institution of higher learning.