Ramona Elementary was the last school Sara Chitjian taught, from 1978 to 1994, totaling 18 years of service. Sara transferred to Ramona from Dixie Canyon specifically so that she could work with the new Armenian immigrants who were arriving in Los Angeles from Soviet Armenia and Beirut due to the civil war there.
As I eagerly asked for a transfer from Dixie Canyon, thinking I was going to have a more productive experience influencing Armenian culture as I had begun at Dixie Canyon. From my very first day at Ramona, I experienced a rude response from the principle and the office. I was puzzled from the cold reception I received, I continued cautiously to understand what was going on. Immediately I realized that the principle had already been informed from the district office who I was. Thus in this puzzled way I tried to ignore these reactions however on one such day the principle was waiting for me in front of his office and said sternly, “Chitjian come to my office”. I knew something was wrong but I did not know why. In an angered disposition he raised his voice to me As he was leaning on his desk with a thick glass top on it. In that moment his rude behavior was interrupted by a strong crack sound which was his glass top cracking. I did not laugh or smirk at him in any way and began to realize that the whole district was frustrated and against integration with foreign students in part because now the teachers would have to deal with and accommodate newly arriving bilingual students and their culture.
So from day one at Ramona, I was put on their hit list and ignored from any position relevant to the necessary programs, that made the rest of the faculty happy. At the first teachers meeting, the principle talked about painting the classrooms and designated my classroom as the dumping ground and the Principle replies by throwing his clipboard at me.
Three teachers came to me later in the day to apologize on his behalf and said that he had no right to act so rudely to me. This was my introduction to Ramona, no one wanted to go into bilingual education, none of the teachers were for it except me. I moved forward that these American teachers in America did not feel the same way as me and could not see the value of a bilingual program. Fast forward to after my retirement, today we have 100 different nationalities coming into our public school system in Los Angeles, the climate has changed and I have to just laugh.
I spent 18 years at Ramona doing my own thing but was never given the permission to be in charge of a bilingual program. However they did not interfere with the mini programs that I decided to do on my own and without the encouragement of my peers. The enthusiasm however did and would come from the children in my class and all the other classes who would come to see what I was doing. None of the other teachers nor any of the 4 different principles ever paid me any attention and continued to criticize throughout my entire career at Ramona.
I was shocked that the Armenian parents of students were not even interested, so eager to come to America. Perhaps these new immigrants wanted their children to be “Americanized”. Even though the non Armenian parents at Dixie Canyon elementary and Monlux elementary were very appreciative of what I was doing. Will the 4th and 5th generation Armenian students feel excited if they heard something of Armenia in their classes, I wonder as they assimilate into the “Odar” (non – Armenian) world.
I could have retired with twice the value of my pension if I had stayed just one more year but my parents health was declining and my mother wanted me to return home so that I could care for them, so I did.
Two Articles about Sara regarding the programs she was doing at Ramona Elementary School
Sara writes letter to Superintendant
Hampartzoum visits Sara’s Students Every April 24th
Hampartzoum Chitjian would visit Sara Chitjian’s students every year on April 24th to tell his harrowing story of escape out of Turkey during the Armenian Genocide that began April 24th, 1915.
Videos of Mini Class Programs from Ramona
The success of Sara Chitjian’s mini class programs at Dixie Canyon continued at Ramona Elementary School. This video captures the first performance Sara directed with the newly arrived students from Soviet Armenia.
Every Year on the week of April 24th, Hampartzoum Chitjian would make a visit to share his experiences of growing up in Kharpert Turkey and his escape from the Armenian Genocide with Sara Chitjian’s students.
Sara’s Final year of teaching at Ramona Elementary
Advice To Students at Ramona
Hampartzoum wrote this for the Students at Ramona Elementary who he was very impressed by.
Vartan’s Song and Pete Seeger’s “This Land is Your Land.
Sara presented Vartan The Great Armenian Hero to her students and taught them songs about him.
Each year Sara would have her students sing “This land is your land” in the auditorium to the whole school. This song had profound meaning and message of inclusiveness to her students.
Photos from Ramona Elementary School
Photos of various programs Sara designed for her students.