Anita Jones Barbour (B.E. ’40) knew as a child that she wanted to attend UCLA. Growing up in the Larchmont area of Los Angeles in a home built by her father, she remembers admiring the campus from the back seat of her parents’ car during frequent family outings to the beach via Sunset Boulevard. Graduating from high school during the Great Depression, however, made aspirations of attending any university a significant financial obstacle.
While by today’s standards the $25 fee per term Anita paid seems inexpensive, she says, “In those days, that was a lot of money.” In fact, when she graduated from Fairfax High School in the spring of 1936, Anita was among the few of her graduating class to continue on to a college or university.
Recognizing her privilege, Anita took full advantage of her four years at UCLA.
“I loved every minute of my UCLA experience,” she says. “It was the best of times; I made wonderful friends [in what was] an extremely vibrant community, both socially and intellectually.”
These were the years when Kenny Washington was the star player on a football team comprised of other notable athletes including Ray Bartlett, Jackie Robinson, and Woody Strode. Anita loved going to the football games at the Coliseum and cheering on the Bruins in games against USC. Although only the few could afford to join a fraternity or sorority and she did not herself pledge, Anita was a member of the Newman Club, a Presbyterian affinity group that was active on campus, and she attended a number of free lunch hour concerts in Royce Hall, including “one [artist she will] always remember hearing in person – Duke Ellington.”
Her academic experience at UCLA was equally stimulating for Anita. Beginning her studies in the nursing program, she switched her major to Education, which suited her much better. Looking back, Anita thinks of the period as the “Golden Age” for UCLA elementary education, due to the leadership of Corinne Seeds.
“Everyone worshipped her,” Anita says. “When she walked into a room, you knew that she was the authority, and you paid attention.”
In many ways, Anita recalls, the Education Department was shaped by Ms. Seeds’ “learn by doing” model. Topics and units of study were taught through dancing, poetry, acting, and physical exercise, which kept students active and engaged in their own learning and reduced discipline problems significantly.
“UCLA Education and its techniques were world-famous and very advanced,” says Anita.
During her teaching career she remembers teachers from all over – including a research group from Japan – observing her 6th Grade class at Westwood Elementary School, where Ms. Seeds’ techniques were practiced and implemented daily.
“[Ms. Seeds’] approach was very progressive and effective,” says Anita, who found throughout her teaching career that many of the best educators in Los Angeles had been trained at UCLA under Seeds’ guidance.
Anita also developed close working relationships with prominent faculty in other departments while at UCLA. Taking courses from Dr. Grace Fernald, then a world-famous psychologist, and her assistant, Anne Sullivan, who is more famously known as Helen Keller’s aide, Anita developed an interest in clinical psychology and learned how to work with children with various learning disabilities, teaching them how to read and write. Upon her graduation, Anita was asked by Dr. Fernald to stay on in the Psychology Department, but with marriage on the horizon, she declined the offer to pursue teaching full-time.
Anita graduated Cum Laude in the spring of 1940 and was initiated into the Educational Honorary Society, Pi Lamda Theta, the equivalent to Phi Beta Kappa for the School of Liberal Arts. After getting married she applied to Los Angeles City Schools, where, in those days, teachers were required to start their teaching careers as substitutes rather than full-time teachers.
Anita enjoyed a rich career, teaching in many schools in the L.A. School District and then to Westwood Elementary, where she taught 3rd and 6th grade until 1974. She felt “very privileged,” she says, to work at the Westwood Elementary School, which was “one of the best schools on the West side.”
While teaching at Westwood, Anita was a 6th grade Training Teacher for UCLA. She trained four Education students, both men and women, each semester. She still considers herself a Bruin and remains in touch with colleagues, teachers and students, who were part of her teaching career both during and after her time at UCLA. She looks back with pride and satisfaction to where it all started – UCLA and the University Elementary School at Westwood and Sunset Boulevards.