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Dr. John D. Ehrenborg: 1927 - 2015

Innovative Educator


Dr. John D. Ehrenborg, who was principal of Monte Vista School in the Hope Elementary School District from 1966-1988, passed away February 27 in Nipomo. Born in Chicago, Illinois, on April 4, 1927, to Harry and Ruth Ehrenborg, John started his education at Santa Barbara’s Hope School, and he went on to complete high school in Illinois and his AA at Principia College. He returned to California for his BA at UCSB, MA at San Diego State University, and finally his doctorate at UCLA. He not only taught elementary and secondary school but college classes, as well.

John Ehrenborg
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Courtesy Photo

John Ehrenborg

He served proudly in the United States Army, Infantry and Signal Corp, from 1945-1947, achieving the rank of staff sergeant. In 1951, he married the love of his life, Barbara. Together they adopted four children, Mark, Karen, Bryant, and Kristin.

While teaching at Vieja Valley School, Dr. Ehrenborg was hired to be the principal at the new Monte Vista School in the Hope School District. The opportunity to open a new school was the perfect setting for John to put into action his philosophy of what an elementary school should be. He hired teachers, met with the community, and never looked back. John was a true, visionary administrator.

The school reflected his dedication to innovative education. Within a few years, Monte Vista was a model school of pilot programs of combination classrooms and teams of teachers to provide individualized instruction. His challenge to teachers was that every child could learn successfully. The teacher just needed to discover the appropriate learning strategy for each child.

One morning, a misbehaving student was sent to the office for punishment. When the teacher checked in on him at recess, the student was happily taking apart a radio so that Dr. Ehrenborg could teach him how to put it back together. John never gave up on a student!

As the leader of the school, he set the standards high. His energy and expectations of staff shaped the curriculum. He made science a focus, even visiting every classroom with snakes. He knew every child’s name and spent hours interacting on the playground. It was not uncommon for John to accompany a class on a field trip, a hike, whale watching, or even a week at Catalina Island. It was impossible to ignore his presence, as his lively whistle and hearty laugh announced his entrance into the classroom.

He also believed in hands-on education. You might find him hauling his jigsaw from classroom to classroom for a wood project. He would set up in the hallway and rotate the kids out to learn to build something. In fact, the Kid’s World playground in Santa Barbara reflects hours of his time and love of woodworking.

His respect for his staff encouraged each teacher to do his or her best. He valued different styles of teaching and supported the special talents teachers brought to their classrooms … music, sports, gardening, travel, puppetry, camping, theater, and visual arts. He was always open to new ideas. Of course, computers fascinated him. It did not take long for Monte Vista to open a computer lab, with Dr. Ehrenborg as a frequent teacher in the lab. I am sure many Monte Vista graduates started their love of technology under Dr. Ehrenborg’s mentorship.

John considered collaboration essential to a school. The staff was included in budget discussions, and the resulting budget reflected the priorities of all the staff. His open-door policy made him accessible to all — students, staff, and families. He was Monte Vista’s “ambassador at large.”

Dr. Ehrenborg led Monte Vista School to become an exemplary elementary school, eventually achieving designation as a Distinguished School. Upon his retirement, the library/media center was dedicated to him as the Dr. John Ehrenborg Center.

During his retirement years, John volunteered at La Colina Junior High School and Dos Pueblos High School. He eventually moved to Big Bear, where he built a cabin in 2002, and finally to Nipomo. There he volunteered to rebuild computers for underprivileged families. He applied his energy, optimism, and sense of commitment to everything he undertook, and was a true inspiration to all the family, friends, and colleagues who knew him.

John is survived by his wife, Barbara Ehrenborg; daughters Karen Ehrenborg Stewart and Kristin Ehrenborg Vickers, and son Bryant Ehrenborg; grandchildren Breece Ehrenborg, Rachel Ehrenborg, and Kailia Ehrenborg; and his brother, Harry Bryant, and sister, Jeanne Remington. His son Mark Ehrenborg preceded him in death.

On March 28, a community memorial celebration of Dr. Ehrenborg saw more than 100 family, friends, and colleagues gather at Monte Vista to remember him. His legacy to both Monte Vista School and the Hope School District was that of a dedicated educator who made a lasting contribution in our community.

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