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Couple Shares a Passion for Peace, Learning and Global Education

The Laurence School Founders open up about their lives, their school curriculum and meeting the needs of the “total child.”

Marvin and Lynn Jacobson both, coincidentally, were born in New York, moved to California and attended UCLA. Although their lives seem to parallel each other’s, it wouldn’t be for many years that they would meet and later marry at the Laurence School in classroom one.

Marvin located at 13639 Victory Blvd., in Valley Glen in 1953 on the very property his parents once owned a home. The school started as a one-room daycare with only 12 students, and has since evolved into an educational powerhouse with 300 students on a 4-acre campus.

All of this was made possible because of the Encino man who had a vision for what he calls the “total child.”

"The emotional is what drives the learning and that’s where I got the idea of the 'total child' concept," Marvin said. "We have a lot of things going on here which we feel are very unique."

Education is not just about books, he said, but rather about supporting physical and mental health and developing fundamental, lifelong learning skills.

Lynn started at Laurence School as a teacher in 1954 and evolved into the school’s curriculum coordinator. She met Marvin for the first time on campus an married him a year later in 1955. The couple now lives in Encino.

Lauren Wolke, the Head of School, said the Jacobsons emphasize a personalized approach to education. They’ve created a school where every child is known by name and is cared for as a valued family member.

"The core of the Jacobsons’ philosophy helps us to raise confident and competent kindergarten through sixth grade children," Wolke said.

Jonah Robinson, 14, is now a freshman at Campbell Hall and has very fond memories of his years at Laurence School.

"At Laurence you learn more than academics. They taught me about being part of a community," he said. "Every single morning Mr. Jacobson greeted me, looked me in the eyes and said, 'Good morning, Jonah.'"

Dana Kaplan a parent of two children at Laurence School, in grades two and four, said when she took the initial tour with Marvin, she was struck by his outlook on community service.

 "He said it’s up to each of us as human beings to help and give back. That’s something my husband and I teach in our home," Kaplan said.

The school supports local organizations such as the North Hollywood food pantry and Jewish Home for the Aging. They have also adopted a special education center in the Valley called the Lowman School.

Laurence School has a strong emphasis on theatre and the arts, as well as peace and global education. It also offers personalized learning groups for all grade levels in both reading and math.

"We’re very into global education and each class has their own sister country. Kindergarten has the USA, first grade has China and so on," Lynn said. "They communicate with a classroom in that country and find out about their culture."

She said they capitalize on special days and every Friday the school will sing 'Laurence songs,' hold hands and celebrate each other’s birthdays, singing in Spanish and English.

"We consider these special days as the punctuation marks as you go through life and see learning and life as joyful," Lynn said. "You have to live your life with energy and motivation."

Laurence School focuses on interactive learning, to teach students to read, write, do math and understand history. If the children were studying about the Navajos, for example, then "they’d figure out what the Navajos ate, how they’d hunt, make their bow and arrows by constructing and measuring them," Lynn said.

The Jacobsons said social studies are the core curriculum at Laurence, but lessons don’t include wars or killings. They focus on peace and what peace means to each child.

"They don’t want to talk about the conflict, but rather the resolution and achieving peace," Kaplan said.

The wall displays of the children’s art, school projects and homework assignments, offer a litany of evidence of the difference the Jacobsons have made.

So when people ask Marvin when he is going to retire, he says there are no plans in the works. "I’m not golfing, or tinkering in the garage," he tells them. "This is what I love to do."

As blissful and as a glowing bride on her wedding day, Lynn holds up a locket she is wearing around her neck, a gift from Marvin she’s worn for years. It opens from both sides. On one side, there’s a picture of their granddaughter, and on the other, an inscription from Marvin. She looks down at the locket and reads the words to herself first, looks up at Marvin smiles and reaches for his hand. Her cheeks are filled and her eyes are bright.

"Time and understanding deepens our love," she said. "He’s a romantic."

Marvin stares at his wife tenderly and at ease knowing that the words he spoke so many years ago still reign true today.

"Oh, how it’s true," he said. "So very true."


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