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Pioneers of Local Education and the Names Behind our Local Schools

Picking a name for a school is no easy venture, in particular when so many seek to have their chance at shaping history. Names are chosen in hopes that the schools will reflect their namesakes’ characteristics and move toward the future with the same fervor those people had in their lifetimes. Long Beach Schools are no exception. Let’s take a further look into the names behind East Long Beach’s schools!

Minnie Gant

Minnie Gant

Gant Elementary School 1854 N Britton Dr, Long Beach, CA 90815 Gant Elementary School is named in honor of Minnie Gant who’s notable achievement as Long Beach’s first female school principal was attained not long after moving to the city in 1915. Gant served in the Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) for 31 years, with 28 of those years inhabiting the role of school principal. She served as the principal for Temple Avenue School from 1918 to 1925, Willard Elementary from 1925-1940, and ended her career at Stevenson Elementary in 1940-1946. However, the title of principal alone only scratches the surface in describing Gant’s time as an educator. Gant was an advocate for the use of visual aids in the classroom. In a 1953 address to students at Gant Elementary School, she shared it was her time at the University of Nebraska where she became deeply interested in the use of visual aids. Her early days as a teacher were marked by the use of “an old fashioned carbon-lighted reflectroscope for the showing of magazine pictures” and in her first 3 years in Long Beach, she kept a small collection of visual materials for students in her geography and history classes. But that collection would not be contained in a small classroom for long. The new title of principal gave her the means to create the first Visual Aids Department at Willard. The department created exhibits students and teachers at Willard and surrounding schools could access with items on loan from her as well as from the public. Gant also pioneered the addition of libraries in Long Beach schools. In a 1950 dictation of her career’s work, Gant said she faced “opposition to this idea for fear it would detract from the public library.” To the surprise of many, circulation in the public library system increased. The following years would bring a normalization of school libraries validating Gant’s impact on Long Beach.

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Marshall Academy of the Arts 5870 E Wardlow Rd, Long Beach, CA Marshall Academy of the Arts takes its name after John Marshall, the fourth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, and the longest serving Chief Justice in Supreme Court History. In addition to presiding over many landmark cases, including the Aaron Burr Conspiracy trial, many credit him with making the Supreme Court an equal branch of the government, alongside the legislative and executive branches.

Helen Keller

Helen Keller

Helen Keller Middle School 7020 E Brittain St, Long Beach, CA 90808 Helen Keller Middle School derives its name from the American author, activist and lecturer. Keller’ story is one that’s rippled through societal history, as a figure of the late 19th and early 20th century who broke through the isolation of being both deaf and blind and found ways to communicate with the seeing and hearing world. eventually reopened in 2015 as a middle school due to the district’s expansion of its bilingual dual immersion program that bridges connections through language.

Mark Twain

Mark Twain

Mark Twain Elementary School

5021 E. Centralia St, Long Beach, CA 90808 Mark Twain Elementary School was built in 1935 and is one of the few schools where glimpses into decades past still stand today. Traces of the school’s original vision to resemble a California mission are evident in the remaining adobe and working bell tower. The school is named after Samuel Clemens, better known by his pen name Mark Twain. Notable works include the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer, and The Prince and the Pauper.

Lowell Bayside Academy 5201 E Broadway, Long Beach, CA 90803 Lowell Bayside Academy takes its name after poet James Russell Lowell, who garnered fame as a writer in the mid 1800’s. A statue of Lowell resides at the school, which was one of 11 elementary schools to open in 1926 to accommodate growing enrollment in Long Beach due to the oil boom.

Richard D. Browning High School 2180 Obispo Ave, Long Beach, CA 90804 Browning High School is the most recent school to be built in LBUSD, opening its doors to students this past September. Named for Richard K. Browning, the owner and founder of the Browning Automotive Group, the school specializes in training students to enter the restaurant and hospitality fields. Browning’s career began in 1934 when he became part of the used car department at C. Stanlee Martin Oldsmobile in Long Beach. He continued to work there for a quarter century, and in 1960 he purchased the dealership and renamed it Dick Browning Oldsmobile. In 1980 the decision was made to relocate the dealership to the Cerritos Auto Square, where they renamed it Browning-Oldsmobile Isuzu. Browning was an avid supporter the local youth as well as of schools in Long Beach.

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