Centurions’ first leader shares from life in education

Myron Sproul shows a portrait of himself in the 1984 Saugus yearbook, at his home in Valencia on September 26, 2019 Dan Watson/The Signal
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Though Myron Sproul has now been retired longer than he worked, he still has many fond memories of his 30-year career as an educator here in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Born on Sept. 28, 1923, in Grantsville, Utah, a little town of about 450 people, Sproul spent his early years in the U.S. Coast Guard as a radioman, on a weather ship smaller than a Destroyer escort during World War II.

“There were submarines around us, but we knew they weren’t going to waste a torpedo on us because we weren’t very big,” he said. “I often thought we weren’t fighting the enemy, our enemy was the angry sea.”

As a freshman in junior college back in southern Utah, Sproul first thought he’d like to go into bookkeeping and accounting, but after applying for a job and getting it, he realized it wasn’t what he really wanted to do.

“From then on, it was no question — I wanted to be teaching,” he said. “My last two years were at the University of Utah and my major was a very weak English and almost stout minor in speech.”

He chose English because of a program while he was in the service in which he’d receive books. “I can remember reading Chaucer and some others that whetted my appetite.”

Myron Sproul recalls his service in WW2, his years of teaching and as a principal at Saugus High School at his home in Valencia on Thursday, September 26, 2019 Dan Watson/The Signal

Sproul’s first teaching position was in Overton, Nevada, for four years at a high school with grades seven through 12.

“I was the English department,” he said. “I didn’t teach the 12th grade, though. I didn’t want to because it was English literature, and I enjoyed teaching American literature.”

In 1954, he moved to Santa Clarita and went right to work at Hart High School.

“I taught mostly ninth- and 10th-grade English,” he said. “There was one time I had to teach 11th-grade college prep for just one semester. It worked the daylights out of me — I never wanted to do it again.”

In one semester, Sproul would typically have over 150 students, teaching five periods throughout the day. And while he primarily had students who didn’t want to be in the class, he still enjoyed teaching.

“I did a lot of reading to the class,” he said. “We subscribed to a scholastic magazine and every Friday they would all get a copy and we would go through it. It was a lot of fun.”

Sproul also spent some time advising the student-run publication, “The Smoke Signal,” and as the drama coach for the school’s plays. “It was good years at Hart — I had a wonderful time.”

Myron Sproul recalls his service in WW2, his years of teaching and as a principal at Saugus High School at his home in Valencia on Thursday, September 26, 2019 Dan Watson/The Signal

While there were many fond memories at Hart, others were less cheerful.

“I’ll never forget, Nov. 22, 1963 — that’s when Kennedy was assassinated,” he said. “I went into my classroom for my fourth period, and one of the students told me what had happened. It didn’t take long until they dismissed us all to go home. That was quite an upsetting day.”

After 12 years teaching at Hart, Sproul spent a year as a counselor before leaving the district for a short stint to be an assistant principal of a junior high school, but was quickly able to return to Hart for the same position, where he then spent the next five years.

In 1972, he became principal of Bowman High School. “Then the third high school in the district, Saugus High School, got on the map.”

He applied and got the position, making him the founding principal.

“You’d think I had a good job in 1974, I was a high school principal,” he said. “I didn’t have a school — it wasn’t built, yet — I didn’t have a faculty and I didn’t have students. Some would say, ‘what a sweet job,’ but it wasn’t. It was one of the worst getting everything set.”

He was out there every day, and watched when they started putting the walls up.

“The big fear that we all had was whether it was going to be ready to open the day after Labor Day in 1975,” he said.

They were able to make it happen, though there was no landscaping and still shallow trenches in places.

“We had a quad that was nothing but sand and gravel, no landscaping at all,” he said. “But opening day went fine — it had no choice but to go fine.”

The school opened with only ninth and tenth grade, so in 1978, the campus had its first graduating class.

“We had to do a lot of changing the minute we opened the school,” he said.

They had tried a new concept of open classrooms, but it didn’t take teachers long to realize they didn’t like it, so they put up walls to separate classrooms.

“I enjoyed it all out there,” he said, adding that he liked being able to see the school grow. “I didn’t have any footsteps to follow and that was good.”

After nine years, he retired in 1984. “They had a nice big celebration for me when I retired.”

Myron Sproul leafs through the 1984 Saugus yearbook on September 26, 2019. Dan Watson/The Signal

Looking back, though he liked both positions, he liked teaching better.

“I didn’t dislike being a principal, it was just so different,” he said. “You think you’d be more in control, but I didn’t feel that way. When you’re in a classroom and the doors are shut, you better be in control.”

Once retired, he moved to Hidden Meadows in San Diego County. “I went to work part-time, so it didn’t interfere with my golfing.”

He got a position at National University, supervising student teachers. “It was my first experience supervising people that their classrooms were kindergarten and elementary — I had never been in that situation before.”

He lost his wife in 2008 and moved back to Santa Clarita to be near his daughter.

“I guess you’d say lived happily ever after until the present,” he said.

In 2015, Saugus celebrated 40 years with a big celebration, which Sproul attended.

“The principal took me around, and I thought I knew my way around, but it was twice the number of buildings,” he said, adding that even the assembly had changed. “What a show the cheerleaders put on — I couldn’t believe it. I never saw anything like that while I was at Saugus.”

Over the years, Sproul’s kids followed in his footsteps. “Three of my four kids were teachers — I was happy about it.”

“My other sister didn’t teach, but she got an English degree,” his daughter Becky Sweeney added, laughing.

Sweeney recently retired after 32 years as a teacher, first at Castaic Elementary School, then at Northlake Hills Elementary School.

“My brother was an elementary school teacher and my oldest sister was a junior high teacher before she was at Oregon State,” she added, all of which she said was because of their father’s influence.

Now, while Sproul loves to sit in his chair working on crossword puzzles, he wishes he could start all over again. And though he doesn’t miss grading papers, he does miss reading to his students.

“He still reads to me,” his sweetheart, Beverley Scott, said.

“I read ‘Huckleberry Finn’ to her, and we both enjoyed it,” Sproul said. “I think my favorite book of all time is ‘Huckleberry Finn.’”

Myron Sproul recalls his service in WW2, his years of teaching and as a principal at Saugus High School at his home in Valencia on Thursday, September 26, 2019 Dan Watson/The Signal

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