By John Grossi | Photos by Monique Kuhlman
This spring, Bethany School (Preschool-8th grade) is inviting all alumni to join them in a jubilee celebration honoring what the small but mighty Christian school on Clark Avenue near Stearns Street has meant to the community for 75 years. There will be food, fun, pictures, music, and many trips down “memory lane.” It’s a fitting year to be celebrating and honoring all those who have gone before—not just because of the anniversary—but due to the incredible momentum and energy surrounding the Bethany Bulldogs over the past few years.
This year, 2023, the school boasts its largest attendance record to date. According to Middle School math teacher Lauren Whygle, Bethany still provides the same “safe, loving, Christian environment” it always has. And perhaps, more people are catching on.
A LITTLE FAMILY HISTORY
Whygle knows much about Bethany School and its history. Her parents met at Bethany Church in the late 1960s; then married and moved into a duplex across Clark Avenue, where she was born. She hasn’t gone too far ever since!
Her grandfather, Henry Fuller, became the second principal of Bethany School during the 1970s and guided the school until he retired in 1991. Lauren herself attended from 1984 through 1989, for 1st – 5th grade.
She went on to attend Mayfair High School and eventually earned her teaching credential from CSULB. During that time, she found herself once again at Bethany, subbing and eventually teaching summer school. Years later, not only is Lauren Whygle the middle school’s math teacher, but her two children attend the school as well, rounding out four generations associated with Bethany School!
“For me, the most rewarding part about being here so long is just to watch the growth of Bethany over the years. People are coming to us from all over the region, the school having been recommended by ‘word of mouth.’ They [prospective parents] will say their friend told them, or a neighbor, or they overheard at the park what a great school we are!”
THE SCHOOL’S MISSION
According to current Principal Tonia Hill, it is the school’s mission, set forth by its founders in 1947, which still guides it forward even in today’s world.
“The campus has evolved aesthetically along with the culture and climate of both staff and students. What has not changed is the goal for every student to grow and thrive in a nurturing environment academically, socially and spiritually. Bethany School is a future-focused campus. We prepare and empower students to believe in Christ; achieve academic excellence; and succeed in knowing their purpose in life.”
Long-time 1st grade teacher (now retired), Rosalind Porter, is excited to see her former students and celebrate the accomplishments of her beloved Bethany School at the 75-year celebration.
“I think first, God is number one and that is very important,” she responded, when asked about the key to the school. “And it’s a family atmosphere... if you talk to the parents, they’ll tell you it’s so much fun and just a wonderful family atmosphere.”
Lauren Whygle also agrees that the secret to Bethany’s longevity is the “family atmosphere.” As someone who has attended and taught at both public schools and private, there is something special about Bethany.
“The love that the staff shows every single student impresses me every single day. I have two kids who go here so I’m able to witness it as a parent, and it’s amazing. The staff puts so much energy and effort into every student,” said Whygle.
“It’s so different from public school where, say, you can’t even give a hug to a student who’s breaking down. Some kids need that love and affection. In public schools, you’re so limited on what you can say and what you can do. Here, the staff is really able to show students the love of God, who he is, and make them feel like they are part of the community!”
After 75 years, the Bethany Bulldogs certainly make up quite a community here in Long Beach! If you are an alumnus wishing to attend the 75-year celebration this April or a new parent interested in enrollment, please visit www.bethany.school.
2244 Clark Ave, Long Beach, CA 90815