Mrs. Katherine Liebert Kirkland (left) smiles for a photo with Michelle Huey and Joshua Kaizuka of the Florin JACL Civil Rights Committee.
By Breana Inoshita, Florin JACL
In 1942, when young Katherine Liebert finished university in San Francisco, she was preparing to enter the work force of a society stuck by war fervor with the constant bombardment of anti-Japanese rhetoric following the attack on Pearl Harbor.
With the face and skin tone of the “good guys,” Liebert probably had several options as to where she would start her career as a grade school teacher. However, Liebert chose to teach children with faces of the “enemy” when she made the decision to leave her life in San Francisco and teach at the newly opened incarceration cap at Tule Lake.
Liebert taught a class of 40 fourth-graders at Tule Lake for one year before marrying her husband, a guard at Tule Lake, and taking on the name Mrs. Katherine Kirkland.
Now 94 years of age, Kirkland resides in a Sacramento-area senior care home and is seeking to reconnect with her former students. Earlier this month, a person close to Kirkland reached out to the Florin Japanese American Citizens League for assistance in the search for Kirkland’s former students. The Florin JACL Civil Rights Committee also had the opportunity to meet Kirkland and hear her, albeit fragmented, recollection of her year of teaching at Tule Lake.
Time is definitely of the essence in this search for Kirkland’s former students. The Florin JACL has a list of all fourth grade students at Tule Lake during the year Kirkland taught there but cannot identify which students were in the class.
Following are ways readers can help reconnect Kirkland with her former students:
- A digital list of fourth grade students at Tule Lake can be accessed here.
- If you recognize a name and have a way of contacting the person, ask the person if the name “Ms. Liebert” sounds familiar or if he or she remembers having her as a teacher.
- Share the list of fourth grade students with anyone who may recognize a name.
If you find someone who may have had Liebert as a teacher or find leads that might help in the search, e-mail Breana Inoshita at firstname.lastname@example.org.