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Teachers leave lifelong impressions on their students, especially the good ones.
Former students, colleagues and friends recently honored the memory of one of those teachers at Fairfax High School, Marilyn Moody.
On Friday, May 8, Fairfax High School celebrated its 90th anniversary with a ceremony re-dedicating the D.S. Swan Auditorium’s stage in honor of the late Moody. The D.S. Swan Auditorium was first dedicated in honor of Dewitt Swan, the school’s first boys vice principal in 1926.
Moody was a theatre, film and literature teacher at Fairfax High School from 1958 to 1981. She was born in Blue Earth, Minn., and moved to California to attend graduate school at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She passed away in 2012 at the age of 84.
Alan Warhaftig is an English teacher and co-coordinator of the Fairfax Magnet Center for Visual Arts at Fairfax High School. He was also one of Moody’s pupils.
Warhaftig is one of many of the former students who were inspired by Moody to either go into the arts or teaching. He was involved in the planning of the re-dedication ceremony.
“She had a big influence on me in several ways. She influenced me in theatre. I became intellectually more sophisticated and her approach to her students largely influenced how I approach my students,” he said.
Warhaftig was enrolled in Moody’s modern dramatic literature class in the early 1970s. The class, much like Moody, challenged students about their understanding of theatre and literature, he said. The class studied classic playwrights, such as Bertolt Brecht, Jean Genet, Tennessee Williams and Eugene Ionesco.
“She was one of these people who had an exceptional knowledge of her subject — theatre,” Warhaftig said.
After graduating from Fairfax High School in 1972, Warhaftig enrolled in Stanford University. He took a dramatic literature course in which the professor was impressed with his knowledge of dramatic literature — especially since he was only a recent high school graduate.
“Even [to] this day, she has never left my mind. Whenever I go to a play, I think about Moody. Whenever I see a good play, I think, ‘Whoa, Moody would have loved this’,” he said.
Warhaftig has been part of the Fairfax faculty since the early 1990s.
Leonard Choi, assistant principal at Fairfax High School, never met Moody but has seen and heard how she influenced her colleagues and former students.
“She made a difference in a lot of people’s lives. You know how you have that one teacher that made a difference in your life? Well, Moody was that teacher, but for all her students. She was phenomenal,” Choi said.
City and state officials attended Fairfax High School’s 90th anniversary celebration and auditorium re-dedication ceremony on May 8, including Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) and Councilman Paul Koretz, 5th District.
“I knew that she was a beloved drama teacher and a lot of students kept in touch with her,” Koretz said. “She had a big impact. She had a great personality and was a great person. It’s terrific when you can rededicate the auditorium’s stage to someone like her.”
Friends of Moody also visited to honor her memory, such as former student and colleague Bev Meyer.
Meyer took a class taught by Moody, which reinforced her desire to become a teacher. Meyer then went to Berkeley and received her teaching credential at UCLA.
“She pretty much changed my life as a student. After I got my credential, I became a teacher at Fairfax. I was able to teach with Moody. She was my mentor for the first five years of my teaching. I stayed close with her for all of her life,” Meyer said.
Although Meyer no longer works at Fairfax High School, she still works in education at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights, creating curricula on human and civil rights for teachers.
“All my work in life has been based on her. She inspired everyone with a work ethic to open up your eyes to the possibilities and make you believe that you can go for it, but you would have to bust your ass to get there,” Meyer said.
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