Alumni Spotlight

Laura Klauber Peterhans, '56, MA '57

I graduated 62 years ago. Unbelievable! I got a BA, a MA and an elementary credential at Stanford in a five-year program through the School of Education. It was tremendous. It taught me to be resilient, to have a broad idea of everything you can do in any given situation. 

In the first two and a half years, I took no education courses. I had a lot of time to do history and art before even starting on the prerequisites for my teaching credential.

Pretty much everyone at Stanford took a yearlong Western Civ course. Every week, there was a lecture in Memorial Auditorium by an expert in some aspect of world history, and two sections of small-group discussion. These days, it could be broadened to include Asian history and other cultural histories. It gave everyone a common language, one thing that’s missing in this day and age.

In my day Stanford was still crowded with all the people who started coming in after the war. For two years I slept in Old Union. Upstairs, for years, it had a women’s dorm. [Future U.S. Sen.] Dianne Feinstein was our RA. In senior year, I slept in Storey House on a sleeping porch with four other people. When you see how the students live today – and not just at Stanford – it’s like Poshville.

I also sang in the university chorus and in Stanford operas. In 1955, we put on the West Coast premiere of The Rake’s Progress by Stravinsky. He came to our dress rehearsal. There was no San Francisco Symphony Chorus back then. So in alternate years we’d sing with the symphony. We sang Brahms’ Requiem. We sang the Messiah. The other years, Berkeley would sing. 

My classes … I liked Educational Sociology with Spiegel. Also math prep, with a guy by the name of Heard. He did a very good job of teaching us how to teach math in a meaningful way. One of my quibbles with the modern curriculum is that teachers assign way too much homework. I teach piano, and I have second-graders come and do their homework during their brother’s lesson while they’re waiting for their own. There’s so much busywork. So many examples. Once they understand their tens… they get it.

Peterhans was an alto in the Stanford Players' West Coast premiere of Stravinsky's opera "The Rake's Progress," featuring several S.F. Opera performers (as well as bass Ray "Duke" Hammett, Stanford's quarterback 13 years earlier.) "It was so much fun being a prostitute!" she says.
Stanford Daily

I have had classes as large as 43 children and still had an individualized curriculum. Because I was taught how to do it. When you have as good as training as Stanford gives, you can do it.

My last fulltime teaching job, I was 61, and I worked at a private preschool housed in Woodside School. All the things Stanford taught me to do that are so important for children, I learned for older children. But I used them with the preschool kids, who were very sharp.

I had the children measure out the dimensions of a Brontosaurus on the tennis court, and they painted it onto paper and we brought it into the classroom. The preschool principal was aghast. She wanted everything to be symmetrical. I told her, “The parents will have to stoop at the door a little bit, but we’ll get it all in there.”

For the past eight or nine years, I’ve been on the Institutional Review Board of the Stanford School of Medicine. I sit with a group of eight or nine doctors once a month and evaluate research that involves human beings. I read research protocols every day. Each such board is required to have one nonscientific person. I review the procedures, the risks, the funding. I look for conflicts of interest. Then I read what the patient will sign to make sure that it realistically reflects what is in the protocol.

I also volunteer with the San Francisco Symphony. We go into classrooms and prepare kids for field trips to the symphony. We introduce them to movement, to the music, to timing.

I am NOT retired. 

I’m 82 and I teach piano. I’m still utilizing educational psychology and child psychology. I’m doing everything I can with my students to increase vocabulary, but in the context of teaching piano. And the kids love it.

Every time I go to a reunion I fire my guns. A School of Education that trains so many administrators and PhDs from all over the world, who go forth all over the world, should make itself better known! And it should grow.