Malibu community members reminisce and appreciate Juan Cabrillo

Former students, families, teachers and staff of Juan Cabrillo walked down the colorful, painted halls of the elementary school one last time on Saturday to relish and commemorate the memories their beloved school paved for them throughout all these years.

Juan Cabrillo opened to students in 1955 and is expected to be demolished this spring, making way for the future Malibu Middle School campus adjacent to the newly remodeled high school. 

Juan Cabrillo faculty and staff helped organize a “Farewell Cabrillo” picnic on Saturday, April 23. The evening had walls of posters, class photo albums and newspaper clippings on display for everyone to look at and reminisce. 

Among those who attended were former students, principals, and teachers who said Juan Cabrillo has made a significant impact in their lives. Bilingual Community Liaison Yalile Pieper said they have organized this event to help pay homage to their school and share the spirit of Juan Cabrillo. 

“So many of us have been touched, our lives have been touched, by this little school from the 1950s all the way up to 2018 and 2019. So many children have gone through here, so many adults, have enriched their lives and we felt that it was necessary to pay homage to that and to be able to gather together as a community and share all of the wonderful spirit that Juan Cabrillo had to offer us when we were here,” Pieper said. “We’re sad that our school is going to be torn down; we had wish it had been able to stay, because not only is Juan Cabrillo a wonderful campus, with it’s spanish style where it fit so well with our community, Cabrillo had a really special spirit, and the spirit of Juan Cabrillo was that there was a space in the table for everyone, for every child, no matter what their learning style, background, ethinic or cultural, it was a wonderful place to grow up.”

Former student Linda Lokey started at Juan Cabrillo in first grade from 1958 to fifth grade in 1962, and she also remembers riding her horse around the neighborhood.

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“Boy, things have changed, but I’m really glad to be here today,” Lokey said.

Former teacher and principal Betty Glass was Juan Cabrillo’s principal from 1992 to 1998. Glass was the principal when the multipurpose room where the gathering was taking place, was built. 

“Time marches on,” Glass said. “It was a great neighborhood school. I truly never minded coming to work a day, both as a teacher and as a principal. Teaching has been a wonderful career.”

Glass shared her experience with how she became the principal and how she became a teacher at Pepperdine University.

Substitute teacher Pat Cairns succeeded Glass as principal and said the teachers were the heart of Juan Cabrillo. 

“I want to say the kids were fabulous, you know they were like your children, but I have to tell you, the heart of this school were the teachers,” Cairns said. “The teachers were amazing and they didn’t get nearly enough credit for the work that they did. It was my goal while I was principal to make sure that people knew that we had outstanding teachers.”

Cairns said her house burnt down in the Woolsey Fire like so many other teachers at Juan Cabrillo and she moved to Dallas, Texas, but is still trying to rebuild her home here in Malibu.

“Nothing will ever take the place of this school or the schools here in general or this community,” Cairns said. “It will always have a place in my heart.”

Pamela Herkner-Chasse served as the school’s principal in 2004 and gave an emotional speech during the ceremony. Herkner-Chasse thanked the teachers for creating a community. 

“Being here just touched my heart so much. This is just an amazing place,” Herkner-Chasse said. “It just meant so much to me because of the people — it’s such a community. It’s the most incredible, small town community place, and everybody is just everybody, that gets along, doesn’t matter where you come from or who you are, everyone just loves each other.”

“Cabrillo is a real little piece of the world. We have a mix of all kinds of people and created a fabulous community and I feel so privileged to be a part of this and get to know so many wonderful people who did great things for kids,” Herkner-Chasse said. “Even though it’s going to change, it’s still here, it’s in everyone’s hearts.”

Samantha Bravo
Samantha Bravo
Samantha Bravo is an inspiring photojournalist based in Los Angeles California. She began her journalism career at Pierce College Media Arts Department. Twitter @samanthavbravo

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