Arizona Rural
Schools Association
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ARSA Hall of Fame

The ARSA Hall of Fame honors individuals who have contributed to rural education over a period of many years and has served the cause of rural educators. Selection is made by a committee that consists of the Executive Board and two other members-at-large. Those selected are not necessarily members of ARSA.

2016 Hall of Fame Inductee Elsie Toles

Elsie Toles: 1888-1957

Elsie was a member of the first graduating class of Bisbee High School in 1906 (six years before Arizona statehood). She became a teacher and taught at Bisbee and Douglas before being elected the Cochise County superintendent of schools, a remarkable achievement for a woman in the early 20th century. During her second term, she served on the Arizona Board of Education and Board of Regents. She became the first female state superintendent of public instruction in 1920. During this time, the state superintendent was also a member of the Paroles and Pardons. Many people did not see a woman as being able to perform these duties.  

At the end of her first term, she was swept out of office along with all the other Republicans by the usual six to one democratic majority. This included the state superintendent. This ended the political career of Elsie Toles. She remained politically active, and in 1956, the state republican party chose her to hold the honorary position of presidential elector.

Her chief interest, however, remained education. She returned to the University of Michigan to complete her last semester and secured her A.B. degree. She was a demonstration teacher at the University of California Berkeley for three years. She became a professor of education and teacher training at San Jose State College, a position she held for 17 years. During this time, she was in charge of the supervision of student teachers in rural schools. She also did part-time supervision in the schools of South San Francisco as a reading consultant.

When World War II began, at the request of the state of California State Department of Education, she left San Jose State to establish day care centers for the children of mothers employed in the ship yards and war plants.

Elsie retired after the war and returned to her ranch at Portal, Arizona. She wrote occasional articles and with her sister, Myrium Toles, wrote a reading text “The Secret of Lonesome Valley” that has been very successful. It was revised and reissued by its publisher and can still be purchased online.

Elsie is a member of the Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame.