A Tribute to Wonderland and Mrs. Fife from a Grateful Student

School Updates

Now in its second half-century of operation, Wonderland School in San Marcos is a family-owned private school that has been one of the Academy’s long-time educational partners and feeder schools. Currently, SMA has 27 students who are former Wonderland kids, not to mention the scores of Academy graduates who had their start at Wonderland. 

Shirley Fife: Founder of Wonderland

On Tuesday, Sept. 6, Wonderland recognized Mrs. Shirley Fife, who founded the school back in 1965. Mrs. Fife started with ten students around her dining room table at the family’s apartment on the campus of Gary Job Corps Center. Since that first year, the school has grown and prospered, offering an educational option for families in the local area who want their children in a nurturing environment where Christian values are taught.

During the Wonderland Founder’s Day celebration, the school’s owner and principal, Jim Fife, recognized his mother for following through on her dream to operate a private school where each student feels loved, respected and challenged. He related a history of the school, which started in the Fife’s home in 1965, but moved in 1966 to Vista Street and later to its current location at 302 Country Estates Drive. For most of those years, Mrs. Fife has taught kindergarten to her young students, using phonics instruction to instill in them proficiency in—and a love for—reading. Today, she continues to spend time with children at the school, sharing hugs, words of encouragement and pearls of wisdom.

Early Days at Wonderland

As one of Shirley’s early pupils, I came to Wonderland for pre-school and kindergarten training in 1966-1969. Like many alums of the school, I can trace my own love for reading and for learning in general to those early days at Wonderland. Due in part to what Wonderland meant to me, my husband and I sent our own children to Wonderland for elementary school, prior to their enrolling at San Marcos Academy. They, too, benefitted from the Wonderland experience and were ready for their middle school and high school days at SMA.

This year, my family’s Wonderland story has a new chapter as my grandson entered the 3-year-old class at the school, bringing back to me flashes of memory from my first year at Wonderland 50 years ago. It’s hard to believe we are a third-generation Wonderland family! 

Congratulations to Wonderland School

Congratulations to Wonderland School on its 52nd year of operation in our community. And most of all, thank you to Shirley Fife, an amazing woman characterized by grace and inner strength, who has mentored three generations of students and served as a shining example of what a teacher should be.

–By Shelley Henry, SMA Director of Admissions and Communications