By Susan Motander
Monrovia Unified School District Board of Education rededicated the library at the high school as the Frank Jansson Library, naming it for a dedicated and beloved former teacher at an event last Friday. Many of those in attendance were former students some of whom had come from as far away as New York and Colorado to honor their former teacher.
Jansson was an extraordinary and gifted teacher. He started teaching at Monrovia High School (MHS) in 1958 and continued until his death 15 years ago. I was privileged to be one of his former students and he was, without a doubt, the best teacher I ever had. I took every class he offered while I was at MHS.
I remember clearly three things he said: “Never start a sentence with a contraction, unless you have a good reason,” and “People who write with exclamation points laugh at their own jokes.” As to my writing style, Jansson told me it was “parenthetic,” and probably seeing a hurt look on my face quickly added his comment was “not criticism, but commentary.” And he was right on all three observations.
Another former student and later a colleague of Jansson, Randy Bell, spoke to the Board at the meeting last month when the decision was made to rename the library. Bell called his former teacher a nutcracker and then went on to explain what he meant. He said that Jansson found a way to find the real soul of his students and bring out the best in them.
That same evening I also spoke to the Board saying I felt the Board was making a correct decision in naming the library for Jansson because he loved three things: Monrovia High School, teaching and therefore his students, and books. I cannot remember a time when he didn’t have a book next to him, in his hand or his briefcase.
At the dedication Bell again spoke. This time his remarks were simple: “He was our best teacher – he was our scariest teacher – he was our toughest teacher. There was no escaping him.”
Another colleague, Eric Miller who has taught at the high school, said that Jansson started as his mentor when he first came to MHS, but later came to be his best friend. He recalled traveling through Europe with Jansson; recalled that two weeks before they left for Rome he found a postcard of the Pieta on his desk with Jansson’s scrawled comment, “two weeks.” Upon arriving jet lagged in Rome, Jansson insisted on immediately going to see Michelangelo’s Pieta in St. Peter’s. That was his style.
Miller also read a letter from Louise K. Taylor who was the superintendent for the final years Jansson taught at the high school. It was eloquent and moving.Words from Louise Taylor read by Eric Miller at the Dedication of the Frank Jansson Library at MHS
Just before the unveiling of the new name that now graces the front of the library, the School Board president summed up the sentiments of many of his former students calling the library “A brick and mortar representation of Frank Jansson,” and saying, “Mr. Jansson, rest in the knowledge that you are great.”
I think the moment I most appreciated was the actual unveiling. There was a small glitch: the drape was supposed to be lifted up over the roof of the library, but it was hung up on the edge of the roof, and so was dropped instead. Those of us who knew Frank well wondered if he might not have had a hand in that. I am sure it would have been his favorite moment.