Doctor Norman Mirman saw a need. The former LAUSD teacher believed that very smart kids would learn best if they learned together. In 1962, Mirman and his wife Beverly opened a school in West L.A. - in their living room.
“He started with just nine families,” says Mirman staffer Robert Woolley.
Dr. Mirman died Sunday, April 10th at age 91 from natural causes. He lived to see his small, home-school grow into a sprawling, three acre campus on Mulholland Drive in Sherman Oaks, just west of the 405 freeway. The elite private school teaches more than 300 highly gifted students.
“One of Dr. Mirman’s mandates was to create classes that are intellectually stimulating, “ says Darrel Lee, a Mirman teacher for 37 years. That is, of course, what most school teachers might say. But when your students’ I.Q.s top 144, staying ahead of their intellectual prowess can be challenging. The average U.S. IQ hovers around 100. Dr. Mirman decided to throw out the rule book.
“We don’t have artificial boundaries,” says Science Department Chairman Norm Brennan.
Instead of traditional grades, The Mirman School groups students by ability. While the school accepts students ages 5 to 14, students in a math class might have an 18 month age spread. This allows younger students to learn more advanced math, if they are ready.
“We have a calculus class with just one student,” Woolley says. “That student was ready, so we created the class.
Language courses include French, Mandarin and, a student favorite - Latin. In Anthropology class, students study a large replica of an Egyptian burial site. 12 year old science students are designing a more efficient form of solar energy.
But, beyond advanced learning, Dr. Mirman understood that highly gifted students may battle a need for perfection.
In a statement, Headmaster John Thomas West quotes Dr. Mirman. “Each student needs reassurance that no one is perfect.; it’s OK to make mistakes - we all do - we hope that we learn from our mistakes...”
Just five month ago, the school mourned the death of Dr. Mirman’s wife Beverly. She worked by his side for decades handling school administration.
“We’d like to think they are together again,” says Woolley.
If they are, they might well be pleased.
“He left this legacy,” says teacher Darrel Lee. “He was happy with the way it turned out.”