Retired La Jolla teacher, Mr. Syd Franklin still connecting with students

Then and Now — Mr. Syd Franklin and Karen Benito at her sixth-grade graduation in 1988 and at Harry’s Coffee Shop in 2014. (Courtesy Photos)
Then and Now — Mr. Syd Franklin and Karen Benito at her sixth-grade graduation in 1988 and at Harry’s Coffee Shop in 2014. (Courtesy Photos)
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Then and Now — Mr. Syd Franklin and Karen Benito at her sixth-grade graduation in 1988 and at Harry’s Coffee Shop in 2014. (Courtesy Photos)

Author’s Note:

Syd Franklin retired in 1991 from Muirlands Junior High (the same year it transitioned to a middle school with sixth grade) after teaching for about 40 years. You will often see him on Girard Avenue, either on a bench in front of Warwick’s Bookstore or sitting in his white Mercedes Benz in downtown La Jolla. He was an inspiring, classy teacher who everyone loved.

A former classmate and I (we graduated in 1988) occasionally meet him for breakfast at Harry’s Coffee Shop. He is so interesting and still inspiring. Other classmates have started to join us, and others have said they want to attend future outings.

Mr. Franklin enjoys hearing from former students and learning about their life travels. E-mail him at

gsf12@san.rr.com

By Karen Benito

Teachers have the ability to influence students, make learning exciting and nurture their potential. Some teachers can push their students to work harder and achieve more than they ever thought possible. Syd Franklin has influenced and motivated hundreds of sixth-grade students — including entire generations of families — at La Jolla Elementary, Decatur Elementary and Muirlands Middle School between 1954-1991.

To his students, Mr. Franklin was firm but fair, serious but playful, challenging yet fun. He never took himself too seriously. If he needed to discipline a student or talk to them about their work not being done, he would finish with a whimsical, “and then we’ll all go to the seashore,” with a twinkle in his eye.

Mr. Franklin “differentiated” instruction before that was even labeled a teaching strategy. To demonstrate dividing fractions to his sixth-grade students, Mr. Franklin once picked up a student, flipped him over, and explained that he was the reciprocal.

His love and knowledge of history, literature and travel provided inspiration for his young students, planting the seed for a desire to know and travel the world and understand new cultures and experiences. There has always been something quietly larger-than-life about Mr. Franklin, a Cary Grant-like movie star quality. If you see Mr. Franklin on one of his many strolls through downtown La Jolla today, you’ll know him by the dapper manner in which he carries himself.

Born in 1929 in Green Forest, Arkansas, Mr. Franklin’s mother died when he was one-and-a-half-years-old. He and his father then moved to Rochester, Minnesota, with his aunt, who helped raise him. His aunt had an ailment that had been incurable thus far, but had been told that the Mayo Clinic in Rochester could help her. It did, and Syd lived there until age 11, when his father got a job in San Diego.

As a child, Mr. Franklin’s favorite subject was history. He graduated from San Diego State College (now San Diego State University) in 1951, and even played on the school’s basketball team for a few years. After graduation, he elected to get a teaching credential, following in the footsteps of his mother and grandmother.

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Mr. Syd Franklin in his teaching days

He was drafted during the Korean War in his second semester of student teaching, but never left the country in his two years of service in the Army. Mr. Franklin returned to SDSU to graduate with his credential in 1955, and later completed his Masters in Education in 1961.

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