THE "SCHEIB SCHOOL OF
Zion Church and Scheib's School - 1880
Scheib transformed what had been a parochial school into a regular
primary and secondary school. His plan for reorganization of the
institution was readily approved by the Church Council. The new school was
set apart from Zion Church. Religious instruction was only
extracurricular. Furthermore, Scheib insisted on the use of both English
and German in the school, an innovation which met with much criticism, as
from the earliest days on, all classes at Zion School had been held
exclusively in German. A school-directorium was set up, composed of
members of the vestry and other parishioners. On November 1, 1836, the new
school opened its gates for the first time. Seventy-one students were
enrolled in the first courses.
Soon the number of Anglo-American, Catholic, and Jewish children, together
with the children of Protestant German families who were not members of
Zion Church, exceeded by far the number of Zion's own boys and girls
enrolled in the school. There was only one distinction between members'
children and othersó members paid a smaller tuition fee. The faculty at
first consisted of two good teachers and the pastor himself. As the old
school building was too small to accommodate the increasing number of
pupils, the church edifice was made available for the classes.
Pastor Scheib brought an entirely new philosophy of education to this
school. First of all, he gave the teachers and the parents of the pupils
an opportunity to participate in the various affairs of the school. On
January 3, 1839, his newly created parent-teacher association (almost
certainly the first one of its kind in the United States) met to discuss
the future of the school. He set forth his pedagogical principles in a
bi-weekly paper, the Allgemeine Deutsche Schulzeitung, published in
Baltimore in 1839-40.
When the second year began, the total enrollment stood at 94. The final
examinations and commencement exercises were conducted in a solemn form
each year, and consisted of demonstrations by the pupils, musical
programs, and the award of honors. In 1838, a third teacher was secured
and the building enlarged. In 1839, a fire destroyed the school building
completely. A large new school was built, with bright, well-ventilated
Although Scheib's School was absolutely independent and self-supporting
except for the ground and the old building, which were furnished by Zion
Church, the congregation took much interest and pride in the school. In
1850, the members of the church donated $8,000 to the institution. The
enrollment was constantly swelling. In 1853, there were 315 pupils; in
1861, 418 boys and girls were students of the various classes, ranging
from kindergarten to the upper grades. The Civil War did not affect the
activities of the school, and at the close of hostilities the maximum
enrollment was attainedó802.
The period from the end of the war until the opening of public
English-German schools in the seventies brought Scheib's unique school to
its high point of growth. Twenty classrooms, a faculty of sixteen
carefully selected teachers, a library and study rooms served the needs of
its many pupils from all over the city. The essence of this successful
institution of learning, however, was Pastor Scheib's own pedagogical
genius. His philosophy of education was far advanced over most of the
contemporary concepts of teaching. The first paragraph of the constitution
of Zion School concisely expressed his views:
Glass in Zion Sanctuary Entrance of Pastor Scheib at his school.
"The intent of the institution
is rational education, or the natural development of the faculties lying
within the child in order to lay the foundation for personal, social, and
general welfare. The essence of this educational method is based upon the
a. It observes the development of the human being and
proceeds in accordance with nature by inciting and exer
cising in ascending order the powers which slumber within
b. It considers the child as an organic being which develops
through external stimuli according to innate laws of nature.
c. Since the human being received no faculty in vain, this
method strives for the cultivation of all talents in naturally
d. Since all knowledge originates with experience, this method
employs visual aids. It is a demonstrative method.
e. Since the essence of the human being lies in the desire for
the realization of the true, the good, and the beautiful,
this method is ethical, or moral and religious in character.
f. As man must attain good qualities through his own efforts
this method awakens in every regard the independent ac
tion of the student."
Proceeding along these lines, the school was eminently successful. Most of
the subjects offered by present-day high schools were taught, in a lively
manner which aroused the interest of the students. Thousands of
Baltimoreans went through Scheib's School, and the influence of Scheib's
approach has been evident in their acting and thinking. Many men and women
who later achieved prominence in the life of the city and the state were
once students at "the school way down on Gay Street."
The school declined in numbers when the English-German public schools were
started in Baltimore, and the latter, keenly sensible of the rivalry, ever
increased in efficiency. The free tuition of the public schools attracted
a large part of the former patronage of Zion School, and finally in 1895,
but not until after a long struggle, Scheib's School, because of large
annual deficits, was forced to close its doors.