Monlux Elementary

Sara Chitjian with her first class, September 1959.

Sara Chitjian’s first teaching experience was the fourth grade at Monlux Elementary from 1959 to 1970.

It dawned on me during my first day of teaching that I did not have any experience in my adult life with children. The students were looking at me just as puzzled as I looked at them. I wondered to myself, what are they thinking? The reception I got was a positive feeling, they all had eager faces and I was relieved.  It did not take long for the children and I to find admiration for each other and it was the first time in my life that I felt respect from anyone.

As I wrote my name on the blackboard, I canvased the eager faces of the children wondering what I might be like as their teacher. The first thing I did was take attendance and acted like I knew what I was doing. Hands went up and I called on my first student to take the present attendance cards to the front office. I had 40 kids on my first day and had to keep 38 so it was up to me to pick two children. After a quick glance, I picked two kids and they went to an other class room. I had 10 bright 3rd graders and the rest 4th graders. I felt like a mother hen, protecting the 3rd graders from the 4th graders. I started my first day of class by asking the children what they did for their summer vacation. I handed out paper and pencils and everyone wrote down their stories. Sooner than I expected it was recess and I was put on recess duty. To my amazement the kids knew exactly what to do with balls and games in the yard. To my surprise, while walking in the yard a tiny young girl named Melissa with freckles came up to me and put her hand in mine and walked with me. I never felt that kind of feeling from anyone, not even at home. That sweetness and innocence, I wonder that those days are gone, what causes such changes in our society?

Fast forward to my last assignment, those days are gone…

At Monlux Elementary, the parents were very involved with what was going on in the classroom, more than any other school that I had taught at. While the students were working on the modern California history program, the parents would help the students by sending away for various information very enthusiastically. We would get all sorts of reports from Nasa and other exciting industries of California. Parent involvement made a huge positive difference to the classroom learning experience of the children.

Although Sara’s students at Monlux Elementary were only 9 years old, they were so bright and engaged.

Sara’s class builds a model of early California