When I came across this beautiful story about a ninety-six year old kindergarten teacher who has touched so many lives throughout her entire life using a magic mirror…my faith in the human spirit was lifted. This is the story of Betty Peck…one of the most marvelous human beings you will ever meet.
The phrase that runs around the mirror leading out into the garden says:
“Thank you for every magic moment that makes it possible for me to stand here and to feel how truly wonderful I am!” (Whenever a child is feeling sad….Betty would put her arm around their shoulders and lead them to the magic mirror…it worked every time as she had the child repeat the words after her.)
To share her beliefs and to offer them as a gift to
parents and teachers, Betty wrote a Kindergarten
I bring the gift of myself to this celebration of life
we call the kindergarten. I come each day to be refined,
smoothed, and tempered, for I hold in my hands with
wonder and gratitude the future. The seeds of the future are
in the oneness of all nature, all people in tune with the divine
to be found in our hearts that I give through the joy and
beauty of love.”
For over fifty years Betty Peck brought five-year-old children into her secret garden…and provided all the seeds needed for them to blossom into amazing individuals. Today many of these students have never forgotten that extraordinary teacher…some have written books about her and told her story. In fact her first class of students are now in their 70’s and return for reunions with their grandchildren and some great-grandchildren.
She started teaching kindergarten in one school until she realized that time and place restrictions differed from her vision of what the kindergarten experience should be like…
so she left. Then one day another principal approached her:
In the early 1970s, Marv Steinberg, a principal of
nearby Oak Street Elementary School (where Betty’s husband, WillysPeck,attended as a child) approached Betty to start
a kindergarten. Betty said, “I won’t come unless my
door opens into a garden and I have a built-in oven for
baking bread.” He replied, “You may have anything
you want. I love your philosophy and everything you
do. I want you to do it all right here in my school.”
“What an endorsement! It was so exciting. Well,
imagine! I wish every teacher could be told this, that
they could do what they felt was right.” At Oak Street
School, Betty organized her kindergarten room around
the four corners of the Earth. There was a place
for the sun, the moon, the garden, and the kitchen.
Connecting the children to nature was accomplished
in every way. Dressed in a traditional dirndl (a white
blouse belted with a full shirt), Betty had several
dresses fashioned for each season.
She taught science with an indoor garden, to
reflect what was happening outside. And on the back
wall of the room was a beautifully painted tree. The
children would attend to the tree, depending on the
season, adding fall leaves or spring blossoms, and every
Thursday was garden day.
The child who worked the hardest would be granted a crown to be king or queen of ecology for the day. And the crowned child would
have the honor of passing pieces of fresh-baked bread
to everyone. May Day was always special…with the promise of more seeds to plant.
Her classroom also had a “Cinderella” rug which
held the “Mother’s Lap,” a comfy large chair where
Betty would sit and tell stories, the children all seated
around her in a “moon boat” or crescent shape. And
many of the children would dress up in silks and
colored cloth for story time. There was a natural
rhythm and routine to each day. And at the beginning
and at the end, the children would be greeted or sent
off with a hug while Betty sang good morning or good-bye to them.
Today videos/films document Betty’s fullfilling life…an example of a life-time learner at its best.
Last year, after Betty’s popular and well-known husband Willys (Saratoga, California) died a fund was started to build a bench with both their statues sitting on it…an amazing couple comprised of two amazing individuals.
So until tomorrow…Let us thank God for the Betty Peck’s of the world who touch so many lives throughout their own and set a high standard for all of us to follow.
“Today is my favorite day” Winnie the Pooh
*Cindy Ashley stopped by with some souvenirs from France and a book she thinks I will like…soon I will have my own “”foot up” library! Loved the opportunity to catch up Cindy. Thank you so much for everything including your time!
*Susan Swicegood told me to thank everyone again for their prayers for her brother Rusty…He will return this Monday to his doctor to find out the results of his surgery and other tests….keep those prayers coming. They are most appreciated!