The looking glass

The following article first appeared in “The Ojai Valley News and Oaks Gazette” on Wednesday, June 21, 1967 on page C-1. That newspaper is now the “Ojai Valley News”. The article is reprinted here with their permission.

The looking glass
Melba Meredith

Among the many interesting people in our valley there is a well-known and beloved lady who lives life with a purpose, loves her work and has contributed greatly over the years to the “little ones” of the community. She is charming, vivacious Marian Misbeek, a kindergarten teacher at Ojai Elementary school.

Marian has a colorful background. She was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, where her grandfather, Willis T. Knowlin, an engineer of sturdy, New England stock, had previously arrived in a sailing vessel from Boston, around the Horn.

When Marian became of school age, her parents brought her to California for her education, and in due time, in 1922, she came to Ojai as a young, accredited kindergarten teacher from UCLA.

She recalls that back then there were only three Ojai Elementary school teachers, all in an old fashioned building on the corner of Ojai ave. and Montgomery st., and her kindergarten class of nine pupils was held in the dining room of the Woman’s Clubhouse across the street. Word came from the authorities that if the class number became less than seven it would be closed. But that did not happen due to the devoted efforts of Marian Misbeek whose first love has always been the littlest ones.

She saw her one class grow to the present two classes of 30 and 31.

After four years of teaching, she took time off for marriage and children. She has two successful married sons, John and wife, of Linch, Wyo. and Robert and wife and grandchildren, Melissa and Melinda, of Ojai.

While seeing her sons through college, she returned to her kindergarten work 16 years ago and has been at it ever since. She took summer courses in modern teaching and got a degree, and has been given a Life Certificate from the State of California. Her whole life has been dedicated to starting the youngest on the road to education.

She has a special talent with the young.

Her classes are models of attention and decorum. Youngsters who are little monsters at home are angels in her classes, hanging on her every word, while obviously adoring her. The discipline is not too rigid. There is fun without frivolity and games with purpose. The many projects she develops have imagination and creation to appeal to the tots, while encouraging natural courtesy.

As she walks down the street, pupils and former pupils lean out of cars to gaily shout to her, “Hi, Mrs. Misbeek” and this has been going on for two generations.

The philosophy of this gracious and vivacious lady toward the children is best expressed in her own words: “I have an abundance of faith in little children and am conscious of their feelings and ability to respond to their surroundings in naturalness. The goal is to provide love and understanding to these five year olds, most of them away from home for the first time. To give them a true sense of security and happiness, required for and eager-to-learn attitude, to give them appreciation of their endeavors to learn in meaningful experiences, bestow upon them love and praise in their attempts to grow, emphasize the use of their five senses, which at this age is a vital approach to learning. Have them recognize their teacher as a valued friend at school who with an open heart and mind is read to listen to them when they have contributed with work or deed.”

MARVELOUS MARIAN MISBEEK presents a hand-lettered diploma to Clay Segrest, (who will walk through the gate to “First Grade”), at her graduation ceremonies from kindergarten, held on the lawn in front of Ojai Elementary School. Irene Phillips, her year-long faithful assistant, looks on with enjoyment. A bunch of flowers and an American flag completed the simple arrangement for the impressive ceremony, typical of those conducted by the beloved kindergarten teacher — organized, touching and full of joy. (She has held a Fiesta and a Christmas party during the year, both of outstanding quality, which will become permanent memories for 32 tots.)

Surely among the unsung heroes of this world are the many dedicated teachers who give of heart and mind as well as knowledge to our young.

6 Replies to “The looking glass”

  1. Mare,

    As I’m sure you’re aware, there were two kindergarten rooms in the same building at Ojai Elementary School. Mrs. Misbeek was in one and Mrs. Sutherland was in the other when I attended kindergarten during the school year of 1956 to 1957. I was in Mrs. Sutherland’s class. Did you have either? I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

    — Drew

  2. Flashback! I attended Kindergarten in the Women’s Club building in about 1946. I don’t remember my teacher’s name…maybe Mrs. Sutherland. My brother’s (David Hope Collins) ashes were returned to the Valley from Holland a few years ago by his daughters. I met them there and together we held a heartfelt memorial service. As I traveled down memory lane, I took a treasured photo of the Women’s Club building. Sincere thanks to those who have ensured its life…and the memories therein.

  3. Drew thank you so much for posting! My mom was born in 1919 in Ojai. She lived on Montgomery near Matillija. She spoke so fondly of her life growing up in Ojai. She attended at least two years of kindergarten with Mrs Misbeek. She told us the story how she was asked to attend before she was old enough because Mrs Misbeek needed more students. My grandmother became good friends with the new school teacher and would help her. They remained lifelong friends as did my mother. John Misbeek & wife Juanita remained in our lives up until they both deceased. What a wonderful story this was to read. It flooded me with so many memories. Mrs Misbeek, what a great lady & fabulous teacher.

  4. Ann,

    You’re welcome and my pleasure. I’ve ALWAYS heard positive things about Mrs. Misbeek, and knew that a lot of folks would remember her. Therefore, when I ran across this old article, I just had to post it. Thank you for commenting. Comments add to the interest of the old articles/stories I post.

    — Drew

  5. I enjoyed reading this and it brought back fond memories of my kindergarten experiences. I had the other teacher also. What a special person she was. It seems like yesterday, so vivid are the memories of playing in the saucers getting my fingers smashed when they rolled towards the cement, or snuggling on our blankets for naps “away from home”! I remember painting an island with palm trees and alligators. This caused Mrs.Sutherland to call my mother for a meetup to encourage her to enroll me into Art Classes at The Art Center. My life was changed! I have the class photo of our Christmas nativity scene with manger and all, If anyone is interested. Christie Foote, Ronnie Horn, Bruce Wilson, are among some of The students. I am thinking 1956-7.

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