Shari Latta

She’s humble and grateful. She runs a preschool and is also a lifeguard. Shari Latta, 55, was five years old when she moved to Malibu and hasn’t looked back since. She opened the Children’s Creative Workshop in 1982 and dedicates her life to the preschool and children. She spends more than 60 hours a week at the preschool and loves every minute of it. 

Latta also works for the Los Angeles County Fire Department in the lifeguard division as a lifeguard and junior guard instructor. 

The Malibu Times got a chance to sit down with the woman who says the 50 children at the preschool are like her own children. 

What motivated you to start the Children’s Creative Workshop and what’s the vision behind it? 

My love for children and a desire to be creative and educational with them. The vision is a creative way of teaching science and academics through music, literature and art. 

What are some unique programs and activities that the preschool offers? 

A lot of recorded music and movement. I play guitar and I do that as often as possible with the children. We’ve written educational songs. We wrote a song for metamorphosis, photosynthesis, and various animals and marine life. We’ve written songs for different species of whales, sharks and fish. So if the kids are singing metamorphosis, they’ll remember that. 

You are also a lifeguard and junior guard instructor. That’s very different from running the Children’s Creative Workshop. How and why did you choose to become a lifeguard? Where do you work and what do you teach? 

I work at the beach on Saturdays during the school year. They hire as needed, so I work at any of the Malibu beaches. I chose to be a lifeguard and instructor because of my love for the beach. I love the beach and I love to teach about it and talk about it and be part of it. I work within the 9-11 age group. I teach ocean swimming because there’s a technique to that, waves and currents, surfing, and first aid and CPR. 

What has working with children in so many different facets taught you? 

It’s taught me so much. I look at life with a much more open mind. Children that I’ve taught are now my supervisors on the beach and my peers. At least a dozen I taught in preschool. I have to be open to envisioning children as they get older. Maybe they will be my dentist or doctor some day. Also, I’ve been exposed to so many different people and families and lifestyles and I’ve learned a great deal of acceptance of the differences in people’s lifestyles. I’ve seen so much. 

What is your favorite thing about Malibu? You’ve seen a lot of changes in the 50 years that you’ve lived here. What would you say are some positive changes and what are some negative? 

The ocean and the mountains equally so. A positive change would be that we have some amazing people here in Malibu. If Malibu hadn’t grown, we wouldn’t have so many amazing people. A negative change would be the loss of local trails and the loss of open space and foothills. I try not to focus on the negative and instead only look at the positive. 

If you could change one thing about Malibu what would it be and why? 

I’d keep the ocean temperature at 68 degrees year long. To be more comfortable in the water year-round. I’m really happy to be here in Malibu. I don’t plan on going anywhere. I will be here forever. I’m very lucky to have my school and to be a lifeguard. I’m very grateful for all that. 

How was it having your portrait painted by Johanna Spinks? 

It was a wonderful experience due to her and her conversation and her interesting character. It was my first time having my portrait painted. I didn’t think I’d enjoy it at all and it turned out to be enjoyable. 

Johanna Spinks does portraits on commission and also teaches classes in portrait painting. She may be reached at Johanna@johannaspinks.com or 310.384.7029. 

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