First published in the June 18 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
Florence Nightingale Middle School in Los Angeles recently honored a Burbank man and retired teacher by naming its butterfly sanctuary after him.
The school dedicated the sanctuary to David Meyerhof, who taught in the school’s 6th-grade honors math and science classes between 1994 and 2011, during a ceremony on June 7. The school started the sanctuary this past academic year as a class project, according to Nightingale teacher John Aston, who helped organize the event.
The dedication featured speeches from several Nightingale staff members and Meyerhof’s former students, as well as a poem written by Meyerhof.
“It had a great meaning to me,” he said of the dedication in an interview. “I was very involved in the school every day I was there. … I was many times the first teacher to arrive and the last teacher to leave.”
Meyerhof had an extensive teaching career with the Los Angeles Unified School District, where he also worked as an elementary school substitute teacher, a 4th- and 5th-grade teacher at Loreto Street Elementary School and the science department’s co-chair at Nightingale. The son of Holocaust survivors, he still works with the LAUSD and Glendale Unified School District to organize events at which Holocaust survivors speak with students. He also recently helped lead a similar initiative at Dolores Huerta Middle School in Burbank.
Calling Nightingale “the best middle school in the United States,” Meyerhof said he pushed his students to be the best in the country in everything they did — whether that be arts and science projects, competitions or campaigning for social justice.
“I have always believed, and continue to believe, that our students will make a difference in the world — that they will make our world a better place for humanity,” he told event attendees.
Wendy Yu, who was Meyerhof’s student for the 2000-01 school year and will soon begin her role as a lawyer for Amazon, thanked him during the dedication event for treating “the successes of his students like his own.”
“In the 6th grade, I held my first leadership role,” Yu said in a speech shared with the Leader. “It wasn’t obvious to me then, but the opportunities I had as a 6th-grader at Nightingale weren’t just there. They were opportunities created for me by teachers like Mr. Meyerhof.”
Meyerhof said he still talks with many of his former students, some of whom went on to attend Stanford University, Harvard University and UCLA. By the time he retired in 2011, he had spent 35 years with the LAUSD, including about 18 years serving as the main adviser for Nightingale’s Mathematics, Engineering and Science Achievement program for students from disadvantaged communities. Many of his students who participated in the program, he added, won regional competitions.
“I think in many ways, students have to make their own future,” Meyerhof said. “There are so many challenges — there’s COVID, there’s climate change, there’s mass shootings. … So, students have to find the resiliency and internal strength and [must] study how to accomplish their goals, and they have to have courage and fortitude.
“And,” he added, “I believe that the young people of today will make the world a better place.”