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Learning a lesson from Thomas Edison

It’s not every day that students get a lesson on the light bulb from the man who invented it, but that was the scene at Thomas Edison Elementary School Friday where fourth-grade student Maggie Dobroyan stood with carbonized cotton thread and a blinking bulb strung between her hands.

“It is a lot of hard work and sweat, and if you are willing to do the hard work and sweat in pursuit of your ideas, you are going to succeed,” Edison, played by historic actor Peter Small, told Maggie and her classmates. “You will have failures along the way, you will have mistakes, but if you learn from it, you are going to learn to succeed.”

Edison should know — it took him 8,000 tries before he got the light bulb right.

The presentation was part of a day-long, 165th birthday celebration for the famous American inventor, for whom the Glendale campus is named.


The school community marks it every year, and uses the anniversary as an opportunity to study Edison’s life and many accomplishments, said Principal Carmen Labrecque.

“We don’t have a birthday cake; but if I could, I would,” Labrecque said. “We play music, we sing happy birthday. Last year, I gave them Edison T-shirts if they came to an after school celebration.”

The Edison impersonator guided students through the inventor’s early life, including jobs selling candy and newspapers on trains, and then later as a telegraph operator. But it was his many inventions that held the audience’s attention, including demonstrations of the light bulb, record player and motion picture machine.

“Yes, you need imagination, you need to be creative, you need a lot of hard work,” Edison said. “But the most important thing is you need an idea because the idea is your goal, your target, your aim, your purpose and that is what my entire life has been about.”


The presentation serves as an opportunity to bring history to life in a way that is interesting to children, Labrecque said. And the larger birthday celebration, which included a Jeopardy-style game and prizes at lunch, helps to foster a sense of identity among students, she added.

“I want them to have school pride,” Labrecque said. “This, I think, helps with that aspect of it because they really need to understand who we are, why we are here why we were named after Thomas Edison.”