[KHTS] – After more than three decades of shaping young minds, Esther Kloth has retired from her position as director of Little Shepherd’s Nursery School.
Dozens gave her a warm send-off in December to celebrate her contribution to preparing future students for their first classrooms.
“If I have to put it in order, probably the children and then the teachers and the parents,” she said, discussing what she loved about the school and fondly recalling her frequent run-ins with former students in the community.
“It’s mainly the parents who recognize me, so that’s nice, and then we make a connection and talk,” she said. “It’s interesting now because when I go out and run into people and I have to look at them — and most of them I do remember, and I have to say, ‘You grew up when I wasn’t looking.’”
The nursery school, affiliated with the First Presbyterian Church on Newhall Avenue, has a little over 30 students and caters to 2- to 5-year-olds.
Kloth began there as an aide 35 years ago, she said, then she was a teacher and retired as the director.
Kloth started with Little Shepherd — which is among the first preschools in the Santa Clarita Valley, established in 1967 — at a different time in the SCV, she said.
“Well there was a need, and there weren’t as many women working, and so we were successful in being a half-time school,” she said, discussing how the school satisfied a burgeoning niche in the Santa Clarita Valley, before the city became L.A. County’s third largest.
Kloth moved to the SCV 40 years ago with her husband, Bill, a retired minister, at a time when there wasn’t nearly the need for such services, she said.
The school offers instruction two or three mornings a week for parents, she said, and while the need for such services has grown, the school has maintained its small familial feel, according to one of its more famous local alumnus.
“Certainly, the program has evolved since I was there,” said former Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, but there still are the basics that remain — and in fact, we laughed (the other day) because there were some of the same stories, the same bikes, the same blocks — in childhood development, certainly some things change, but a lot of things don’t.”
Smyth emceed Kloth’s retirement ceremony at the school, where dozens of parents came back and shared memories, as well as celebrated Kloth’s role in their children’s development.
“Those are the things that make Santa Clarita such a special place,” Smyth said, reflecting on the community and noting how he and his son had the same second grade teacher in the Newhall School District. “Even though we’re a big city now, there still is a hometown touch that you just don’t get other places.”
In retirement, Kloth hopes to spend more time with her children and grandchildren who live in the Los Angeles area, Northern California and Virginia.
Reflecting on her teaching style, Kloth said she worked to create a nurturing environment, because age 2 can be difficult for parents and the children.
“I think it was kind of accepting of children the way they are,” she said, describing how she shaped her early childhood curriculum, “and working with them and helping them grow, and then being supportive of the parents.”