In Service Programs

Sara Chitjian created the series of In Service Programs at Dixie Canyon Elementary School in Sherman Oaks, CA.

Sara was the first person to introduce Armenian Heritage into the Los Angeles School System in the early 1970’s.

The prelude to Sara Chitjian creating the highly successful Armenian Ethnic Studies Program for the LAUSD. It is Sara’s greatest passion and she devoted her life to bring awareness of Armenia to the world. …It’s up to the Armenian’s!

Beverly Bihn was a friend of Sara Chitjian and a fellow school teacher. It was Beverly who inspired Sara to go thru with the Armenian themed in service program for the teachers. Sara did not believe that non Armenian school teachers would be interested in a class about Armenian culture. Beverly convinced her otherwise and was correct as Sara’s In Service program became very successful.

The In Service programs were an after school required class for teachers for ethnic studies. Sara Chitjian was the first to establish courses for Armenian cultural Ethnic studies within the LAUSD. At the time in the early 1970’s there was no course option for Armenian Ethnic Studies nor did the teachers have familiarity about Armenian culture. It was Sara Chitjian’s persistence that led to the formation of the program by overcoming the resistance experienced by the administration. After the first week of In Service programs by her, the Administrators were very surprised with the overwhelming and successful turnout. At the end of the first 8 week session, Sara was requested to continue the programs for 16 more weeks by the teachers. Then the district sent Sara to 4 different schools to repeat the program for the Hollywood school system.

In the early 1970’s every LAUSD teacher from grades K-12th grade had to attend at least one “In-service” class on “Ethic Studies” This was during the strife of “Black Power” and “Chicano Power” at the schools in the Hollywood area. This was also the year Armenian students from the Soviet Union began to immigrate to the U.S. Unfortunately a few of these Armenian Students got caught up with the inter racial strife and later “Armenian power” emerged! I was greatly surprised to learn about this reality and felt these students lucky to have migrated to “America” would not get involved in such behavior.

At this very time I was introducing “The Armenians” to my 6th grade classes. I was greatly saddened that the Armenian immigrant students had to face yet, another problem—they were seeking freedom and a safe haven.

Most LAUSD teachers were not familiar with Armenia or Armenians. While I was succeeding teaching my 6th grade students in Sherman Oaks at Dixie Canyon School about Armenia and the language, Miss Beverly Bihn suggested I should teach an in- service class for the teachers of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

At first I wasn’t sure I would have 15 teachers to attend a class on Armenians- there were a handful of Armenians in our schools! There were only two other Armenian Teachers and who else would attend? But I agreed to set up such a class. At first the district office also saw no need for such a class and refused. It took me 3 months during my summer break to convince the district for such a need. To my delight the following catalog listed Armenian culture class compared to the native America. I saw the similarities of both nations!

Within the first week of this class, I received a congratulatory letter. I had 54 teachers attending at that time. It was the largest group of teachers attending an “In-service” Course.

Our Armenian Heritage  in Comparison with the Native American Indian Heritage

Sara’s initiative with the Native American Indians began in 1974

Armenian and the Native American unity re awakens in 2017

In order for Sara Chitjian to offer an Armenian Ethnic Studies program for the LAUSD, she first needed clearnace with the administration. However Armenia was not an available Ethnic group within the curriculum therefore there was a technical challenge. Therefore Sara introduced Armenian Heritage into the LAUSD In Service programming by creating a comparison lecture with regards to Native Americans who did have a course ID # which was necessary for a class to be offered.

The above pamphlet is the original course curriculum sheet and that class turned out to be one of the most successful within LAUSD thus launching many more courses hosted by Sara Chitjian with lectures on Armenian culture by some of the top Armenian intellects of the time.

A Course on Armenian Cultural Values for Teachers

Newspaper article celebrating Sara’s innovative work

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Armenian Culture in Education

A Letter of appreciation Sara received for her outstanding In Service Programs.

Newspaper article acknowledging the introduction of Sara Chitjian’s new inservice programs.

Armenian Awareness Class

Armenian – American Culture Studies

One of the many activities Sara would do with her students was teaching them how to make Armenian style Easter Eggs during Easter.

History of Ethnic Studies

History of Ethnic Studies

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History of Ethnic Studies

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History of Ethnic Studies

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History of Ethnic Studies

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History of Ethnic Studies

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How Armenian Studies Came To Be

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In 1974 during the Ethnic Studies movement in California, Zaruhy Sara Chitjian began to teach Armenian Culture as a six-week mini class. Out of the success of this first program to introduce Armenian Studies to the LAUSD, her fellow teachers at Dixie Canyon Elementary in Sherman Oaks encouraged her to arrange for an In-Service on the same subject. Because Armenian Studies had never been taught as an In-Service before, the District was unwilling to allow an Armenian schedule to be arranged, simply because there was no course number assigned to Armenian subjects in the system. Sara was on the phone with the District for three months and with great reluctance they finally allowed her to teach Armenian Studies, if, and only if, another Ethnic Studies subject was willing to share a class period and course number. Linking the Armenian story with that of the Native American seemed a logical pairing and “The Meaning of Minority: Our Armenian Heritage in Comparison with the American Indian Heritage” was launched as an eight-week In-Service that fall.  Sara did not teach the course herself, but instead, arranged for lecturers to present each week. It was the quality of the lecturers — among them, Dr. Avedis Sanjian on Armenian Manuscripts and colophons, Dr. Richard Hovanissian, Dr. Gerard Liberadian, Dr. Levon Marashlian, and Oshin Keshishian on Armenian History, Gia Aivazian on several topics, Edward Hosharian and Lucy Agbabian on Armenian music and instruments, and J. Michael Hagopian on the Armenian Genocide, Gabriel Injejikian on education, Hrant Agbabian on Armenian Architecture — which dictated the success of the course and the District called to congratulate Sara on the most well-attended In-Service on record. During the evaluation period, a teacher inquired as to why educators up until that point knew nothing about the rich cultural heritage of the Armenian people. Another teacher requested a continuation of the course. Rather than the mandatory eight-week course, the resulting 16-week course was voluntary. Following the success of both courses, Sara was commended by LAUSD for her contributions to minority studies and ethnic awareness. Only one person commented on the missing component of comparison of the Armenian culture to that of the Native American. She continued her role in promoting Armenian Studies in public schools by leading In-Services in Hollywood at the request of the District and continues to this day through an endowed research program and archive named in honor of her parents, Hampartzoum and Ovsanna Chitjian at UCLA.

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Monlux Elementary School in North Hollywood was my first assignment, where there were no Armenian students. I started with fourth grade and for eleven years, that is what I taught. Within two years, Sputnik went up and New Math became a craze: it did more harm than good. In 1973 for a variety of reasons, I transferred to Chandler Avenue in Sherman Oaks, also teaching fourth grade (two and a half Armenian students). Three years later, Dixie Canyon Avenue Elementary School requested I transfer there to teach sixth grade math. As an extra curriculum assignment, I was able to teach a class on “Armenian Culture.” The first year, I had eleven students, the second year I had 38 students, and the third year I had 48 students. At this time, LAUSD required teachers of grades K-12 to take an Ethnic Studies class. I was elected to teach such a course at Dixie Canyon by the teachers, however, I had to get permission from the district since the course was for credit and points for a salary increase. Initially, the district did not find it necessary and it took three months of convincing until I was given the opportunity to join an existing Ethnic Studies course to teach one class period on Armenian Culture. Three months of my stubborn determination convinced the district there was a need. I was only given the concession to join in with another Ethnic group and I chose the Native Americans. Halfway through the course, I received a complimentary letter from the district stating that it was the first In-Service course with enrollment of 54 teachers. At the end of the session, there was a request for an additional 16-week course. This course was not mandatory. During this time, I established the Armenian Teachers’ Association, and with the help of Vahak Mardirossian, we established the Armenian Urban Center with the intention of creating the necessary materials for classrooms and teachers for the predicted influx of incoming Armenian students both from Beirut and Soviet Armenian. Soon after, I transferred to Ramona Elementary in Hollywood where I customarily had all Armenian students with the exception of three students. I remained at Ramona for 18 years. After 34 years of teaching, I retired in 1994 because I owed my time to my parents who allowed me the time to have full range as a teacher. Today I continue to work on promoting Armenian Studies through UCLA with an endowed research program and archive named in honor of my parents, Hampartzoum and Ovsanna Chitjian.

Armenian Studies Documents

The introduction of ethnic studies in public schools began in Boston which paved the way for Sara to introduce such a curriculum in Los Angeles which was showing resistance at the time.

Armenian Bilingual Class Recognized in the LAUSD for the First Time.

Hampartzoum Chitjian hand wrote notice in Armenian since the school did not yet have a system to type the Armenian letters.

Letter of Thanks to Principle

First Armenian Library card at LAUSD

Sars Chitjian class Student Identification Form

In Service Course Itinerary

Introductory Letter

In Service Course Itinerary Page 1

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Dixie Canyon In Service Photos