Annie Koch was a pioneer in the sphere of education for deaf children.
Annie Koch was born in By parish in Värmland in 1876. Her parents were the land-owner Michael Koch and Adelaide Helena, née Lindman. They had nine children altogether, of which Annie Koch was their sixth.
Annie Koch graduated from Folkskoleseminariet (the school-teacher training programme) in Skara in 1896 and then trained to become a teacher for deaf students. She did a one-year labiology course (lip-reading method) in the USA. A school for deaf children had existed at Nya Varvet in Gothenburg towards the end of the 1800s, but in 1898 it was closed down. Thus a deaf-school principal from Vänersborg suggested that an application be made to the Carnegie trust requesting that the interest the fund earned could be set aside to guarantee the continued education of deaf children aged 3-8 years old. A new school was established on 1 September 1902 through the combined funds of the Carnegie trust and Bergenholtz foundation and Annie Koch was employed as its governor. Prior to that she had been working as a teacher at the deaf-mute school in Vänersborg since 1898.
Annie Koch is mainly remembered for combining pedagogical and social welfare efforts on behalf of the deaf and those with impaired hearing in Gothenburg. She devised her own teaching material and collaborated with the artist Gunhild Jönsson who created the pictures for the many posters which Annie Koch used for many years. She was a proponent of and used the oral method in her teaching, that is to say, she did not use sign language.
Teaching the children to be familiar with and comfortable in social settings was a core element of their education. Thus part of their schooling included walking through the town. According to Annie Koch’s testimony it was important to obtain material and ideas for drawing, making models, and handicrafts, but also to visit a variety of professional workers. This included regular visits to cobblers, turners, smiths, and bakers. The children also became familiar with different parts of the town and became used to moving around in the fish-market, the square with the vegetable stalls, the harbour, and the town’s museums.
In addition to her teaching duties Annie Koch also dealt with most of the practical requirements for the school, which meant that she often struggled hard to find suitable premises. The first pre-school, Annedals småskola for deaf children, was at Föreningsgatan 4 in Gothenburg. As it quickly reached capacity Annie Koch was able to open a sister school, Masthuggets småbarnsskola (young children’s school) for deaf children, at Paradisgatan. During the period of 1902–1909 she was responsible for both of these schools. From 1904 to 1909 she also taught in a private apartment at Södra vägen 7. In 1909 the two initial schools moved to Landsvägsgatan 3 near Järntorget, and finally the whole enterprise moved to the Mosseberg school. According to Annie Koch’s own records she chose the schools’ premises based on their proximity to convenient public transport options. There had to be a tram stop right outside the main door of the school. Of course some of the children happened to live close by and could simply walk home but the majority travelled by tram from various parts of the town.
Further to normal school attendance Annie Koch also organised school outings and visits to farms where the children could learn a variety of practical tasks. She also set up the so-called Lappcentralen at which hearing-impaired children were entirely engaged in mending clothes and invisible mending.
In time Annie Koch’s work with the pre-schools for the deaf in Gothenburg became a role-model for a school which opened in Stockholm in 1925. She was active within Sällskapet för bildande av småbarnsskolor (the society for setting-up of schools for young children) in Gothenburg. She also wrote the book Livet i dockskåpsformat eller Hur man berättar utan ord för småttingar i förskolan för dövstumma, published in 1935. Annie Koch also served as an expert on the deaf-mute official enquiry instigated by Tage Erlander in 1945. Her contribution is mentioned in Betänkande och förslag rörande dövstumsundervisningen from 1947.
After 40 years’ as governor of the young children’s schools Annie Koch retired and she died in Gothenburg in 1972.