Lucille Whitehead Intermediate School first opened for the 2008-2009 school year. The school was dedicated in honor of Lucille Bishop Whitehead.
Lucille Bishop Whitehead was born in Waterford, California in a farmhouse on Eucalyptus Avenue. She attended school in Waterford and was such a successful and bright student that she skipped two grade levels. During her childhood, school in Waterford was held in a two-room school house with one classroom downstairs and the other upstairs. That building, which has since been demolished, sat on the site of the current Waterford Middle School. Lucille decided that she wanted to become a teacher, however, when she finished high school at the age of sixteen she was considered too young to enter a teaching training program at any college in California. She waited anxiously for two years and she was finally admitted to what became California State University, San Jose. After completing her teacher education program she returned to her home town of Waterford to teach. She taught many grade levels including a second-fourth combination class with no third graders. During this time Don Pedro Reservoir was being constructed and there were many workers coming to stay temporarily in Waterford with their families. Lucille has truly been a part of this community, seeing growth throughout the years. Most of her career was spend teaching fourth, fifth, and sixth grades. After teaching fourth and fifth she was given the assignment of sixth grade by her principal. She said that after the first day of school, she came home and told her husband that she didn’t think she would enjoy this grade level. As the year went on the sixth graders won her heart and sixth grade soon became her favorite grade to teach.
Mrs. Whitehead is well-known in Stanislaus County for having been an active part in the beginning of Sixth Grade Outdoor Education. Mrs. Whitehead wanted to spend a week outdoors with her sixth graders as a culminating activity for each of her science units. She had heard that Mr. Fred Beyer and Mr. Ted Colton took their classes over to the California Coast to camp at the end of the year. Lucille preferred the mountains and sought out a location to have her students spend a week in the Sierra Nevada. She wanted to take them hiking and enjoying the outdoors but also spend time doing experiments and science activities that would bring the units that they had read about in the classroom to life. As a result of this desire, Mrs. Whitehead found Old Oak Ranch which is a camp outside of Columbia, California owned by the Four Square Church. The church did not use the camp until after school was out and the property was available for use near the end of the school year. Mrs. Whitehead found that Old Oak Ranch was a rather primitive camp and provided an excellent place to “rough it in the woods” while allowing space for cooking meals and having other activities indoors. These year-end campouts were quite valuable for the students and soon became very popular. Word of this great Outdoor Education soon spread and other schools wanted to participate. As a result, the Stanislaus County Office of Education began using Old Oak Ranch to provide Outdoor Education to all sixth graders in the county. Lucille Whitehead’s adventures and culminating activities became the model for all of Stanislaus County. For many, many years sixth graders went to Old Oak Ranch.
As a child I remember my own father, a sixth grade teacher in Riverbank, taking his sixth grade students up to Old Oak Ranch. It was always very exciting going to pick him up at the end of the week – watching for the yellow buses to pull up to his school in Riverbank and waiting for my dad to get out with his students. Mr. Whitehead’s legacy in this county truly has touched so many people.
Mrs. Whitehead has contributed greatly to education in Waterford and Stanislaus County. Mrs. Whitehead retired in 1984 after many years of teaching at Waterford Elementary School.
Our name sake passed away on January 1, 2011. She will be remembered dearly within our community.