Ethel A. Jacobsen Elementary School Celebrates 50 Years

Apr 25, 2018
Photo by: Jonathan M. Giglio

Happy Birthday, E.J.! Students, staff and friends of the Ethel A. Jacobsen Elementary School gathered in Surf City last Friday to commemorate 50 years of excellence in education with an anniversary celebration, complete with a keynote speaker, a time capsule, the installation of a peace pole, singing and kazoos.

To begin the event, the pre-kindergarten through second grade – adorned with bright-yellow construction paper hats – assembled near the west rain garden at the front of the school, where they were greeted by E.J. Principal Frank Birney. Birney thanked all the teachers for their efforts in organizing the celebration, and recognized PTA President Karen Vaughan as well as Superintendent and Long Beach Island Grade School Principal Peter Kopack, who were also in attendance.

As he then explained, a time capsule – filled with items such as class pictures, letters to the future, drawings, collages and, courtesy of Birney himself, a Philadelphia Eagles rally towel – will be placed in the main office and opened in 2043.

“Ethel Jacobsen,” he stated, “was a real person” who resided in Barnegat Light, worked at the school that was later named in her honor and served as a member of the district’s board of education. “She was so multicultural” and spoke both French and Spanish, said Birney, which is why the school decided to install a monument on the property with the message “May Peace Prevail On Earth” in eight randomly selected languages: English, Spanish, French, Hebrew, Russian, Lakota, Korean and Swahili.

School nurse and garden guru Bianca Aniski said Hoch’s Landscaping and Garden Center in Barnegat is donating pink heather for the rain garden, near the peace pole. (In a ceremony two-plus decades earlier, the year Jacobsen died, the school planted a pink flowering cherry tree on the property, Aniski pointed out.) Also, the Ocean County Shade Tree Commission provided red oak seedlings for the students to plant at home.

Keynote speaker Joan Lange, a former teacher at E.J., also addressed “the Ethel Jacobsen School family” on Friday. Lange lived just a few blocks away from the school, and, during construction of the building, she walked over to take photos of the progress. As a teacher, she had Jacobsen’s niece from Norway in a third-class class for a few months, as she improved her English, before moving on to fifth grade.

When she first taught kindergarten at E.J., the program was half-day, said Lange, so she would spend the other part of the day running a computer class at the LBI Grade School in Ship Bottom. “I started teaching computer with one computer and a whole room of students,” she recalled.

E.J. soon adopted full-day kindergarten – one of the first schools in the state to do so. “Our school board was always looking forward,” said Lange.

“We had a great time at the beginning of the Ethel Jacobsen School,” she added, with walking class trips to her house to pick apples off her trees – when learning about the letter “A” in the alphabet – then turning them into applesauce or apple cake, or just biting right into the crisp apple flesh. Her class raised monarch butterflies when studying “B” for butterfly, and the learning fun continued from there to “Z.”

As Lange also pointed out, Jacobsen “was so important to the school system that they named the school after her.”

Karen Larson, who grew up in Barnegat Light, also reminisced about Jacobsen, her long-ago Sunday School teacher, noting, “She was a very nice lady and she loved children.” Prior to working at E.J., Jacobsen taught at the one-room schoolhouse in Barnegat Light, now a museum – which Larson encouraged all the students to visit.

And Anna Lisa Olsen Ray, who was taught by Jacobsen in that one-room schoolhouse, added, “She was a wonderful, wonderful person, and I’m so glad this school was named after her.”

Following the speakers, music teacher Tim Cotov pulled out his guitar to lead the students in a rendition of “God Bless America,” after which they marched, with their kazoos, to the blacktop on the south side of the school, where they formed a “5 0 ! ” as drone photographer Jonathan Giglio captured the image from above.

Kopack then thanked everyone for attending the sunny, breezy, joyful commemoration. “You were outstanding,” he said to the youngsters.

Prior to the celebration, Anne Einselen, a resource room teacher who has worked for the LBI District since 1986, reflected on her years at E.J. “What I love about teaching at LBI is the strong sense of community in our school. The children, while spread out over the 18 miles of our Island, and even over the bridge, connect in our schools.

“The gardens at E.J. offer incredible learning opportunities for the younger children, and the SAIL program at LBI gives every child in LBI a way to contribute to the community around us,” she added. “Our PTA is made up of a tireless group of folks, working to enrich our academic programs by providing assemblies and equipment.

“I am grateful to be a part of this school!”

Ellen Cook, meanwhile, remarked, “I have been lucky enough to be a teacher at the LBI School District for the past 27 years. I was a special ed teacher at LBI for 15 years and have been a kindergarten teacher at E.J. for the past 12 years.

“Many, many things have changed in the last 27 years, such as administrators, teachers, students, but what has always remained constant is the dedication of the people who work here ... to provide the very best education for our kids. Our current administrators, teachers, support staff and PTA members are all proud of our school and work very hard to continue to make our school a place where our students are happy to come each day and feel proud to be part of the LBI Schools.”

Juliet Kaszas-Hoch

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