Carden Hall music teacher Mrs.Laurel Wicke leads students in song as the school celebrated its 50th birthday on campus Friday morning. (DON LEACH, Daily Pilot / November 2, 2012)

For a woman who aspired to be a stay-at-home mom, running a school wasn't exactly the plan.

Still, Patricia Cullinane said she loved every day spent at Carden Hall, which she founded in 1963.

The fruit of that love was on display Friday when dozens of parents and alumni gathered with current students to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Newport Beach private day school.

"What a special, special day this is for me," Cullinane said. "It's like living a miracle. You see, Carden Hall has always been a miracle in my life."

Cullinane, along with Albert and Jane Jones, the directors and owners of Carden Hall for the last 36 years, were honored at the celebration for their dedication to the school, which serves pre-kindergarten to eighth-grade students. The presentation featured several patriotic songs, including one by the third-graders wearing state-themed hats, and a ribbon cutting.

"This ribbon cutting is the beginning of our second 50 years, so here we go," Albert Jones said as he cut the ribbon.

The first day Cullinane meet Mae Carden, the school's namesake and creator of the Carden Method educational program, Carden gave her some prophetic advice.

"In the first day she met me she said, 'You should open your own school,'" Cullinane said. "I said, 'Oh no, Miss Carden. No, no. I don't want a career. I want to be a mom, a stay-at-home mom. I don't have any background at this.'"

Cullinane said she offered to help friends open a school, but ultimately Carden's advice came to life when Cullinane opened the school and ran it for 14 years.

"I loved every single day of being here," she said. "Those first 14 years comprised an amazingly wonderful chapter of my life, because it was a world of children."

Along with yearbooks and trophies, photos of several alumni who became teachers were on display. One of them was AnnMarie Cutrell.

For her, Carden was a place of security and structure that gave her strength.

"It was wonderful experience for me, which is why I brought my children back here when they were old enough," she said. "I was looking for some place where I knew what the standards were, that there was right and wrong, and that they taught my children to be good people as well as well-educated people."

britney.barnes@latimes.com

Twitter: @britneyjbarnes