Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Celebrating the Beautiful Life of Helga Werner

This Saturday, we will come together with our school community to celebrate the beautiful life of Helga Werner, one of our beloved teachers at Ruffing Montessori.  Our family has Helga to thank for introducing us to Ruffing back in the fall of 2008.  After touring several local preschools, I was in awe as I stepped into Helga's preprimary classroom (children aged approx 3-6 years old). As a stark contrast to many of the other preschools I visited, her room was organized, calm, contained, and peaceful, while the children quietly buzzed about the room with curiosity, wonder, and a very obvious love of learning.  Some say these early years are the most critical to a child's educational development, as it sets the tone and foundation for future years.  Helga certainly provided our children with a classroom culture, environment, and daily lessons and opportunities to ignite that love of learning so important throughout their education.  She commanded the respect and attention of both children and adults. As I gathered some photos for a slideshow to be presented at her Celebration of Life this weekend, it is clear from the faces and expressions of those around her, the impact she made on each child.

When I pulled up a few Maria Montessori quotations (see below), I can attest that Helga lived out this philosophy in every way.  She gracefully managed to walk the tricky Montessori tightrope of presenting a lesson to a child and then granting him/her independence to master the task, providing just the right guidance (as needed) to allow each child to learn and grow, while developing confidence and independence.  She also taught about good citizenship, community, honor/respect/friendship, and helped children navigate their way through endless social scenarios. Beyond all of her Montessori-rich educational gifts, I am thankful that she loved and cared for each of our children as if they were her own. Her dedication and commitment on a daily basis to show up with enthusiasm, energy, loving care, and concern made her a family member to every family that she served.  And beyond the curriculum, she went above and beyond while organizing holiday parties, plays, heritage days, graduations, and every possible celebration of life you can imagine.

Beyond the education she afforded our children, Helga taught so many of us as parents, how to better raise our children. She encouraged us to step away and let our children learn independence, problem-solving, critical thinking, and more.  She was a daily inspiration for how to live a more meaningful life.

We are so thankful for the years we spent in Helga's care, and we will forever recognize and appreciate the impact she had on our children and our entire Ruffing community.

Much love,
The Patterson Family

Helga loved the garden
My daughter, Caroline, gave this to Helga upon her graduation...

For each birthday, the children decorate a poster board and answer questions from their classmates
about the different phases of their life....and then travel 'around the sun' (holding a model of the Earth) to represent one year older!

Releasing butterflies

Halloween Party Fun

Christmas Bells Performance
Holiday party songs, crafts, and games 

Valentines Day Yoga
Valentine's Day Yoga Session - Each child gets to pick and demonstrate a pose

Easter Egg Hunt in the Garden

Heritage Day - Each child gives a presentation on their heritage

Star Wars Play

Helga made these costumes!

Lunchbuncher Lunch Outing to Mahle's

Lunchbuncher Graduation, Charlie, May 2014
Lunchbuncher Graduation, Caroline, May 2016
End of Year Fun Day!

Some Favorite Maria Montessori quotations that Helga lived every day....

"Great tact and delicacy is necessary for the care of the mind of a child from three to six years, and an adult can have very little of it."

"Our care of the child should be governed, not by the desire to make him learn things, but by the endeavor always to keep burning within him that light which is called intelligence."

"Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed."

"That humanity which is revealed in all its intellectual splendor during the sweet and tender age of childhood should be respected with a kind of religious veneration.  It is like the sun which appears at dawn or a flower just beginning to bloom. Education cannot be effective unless it helps a child to open himself to life."

"The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say, "The children are now working as if I did not exist.""

"Respect all the reasonable forms of activity in which the child engages and try to understand them."

"The environment must be rich in motives which lend interest to activity and invite the child to conduct his own experiences."

"Only through freedom and environmental experience is it practically possible for human development to occur."

"Our work is not to teach, but to help the absorbent mind in its work of development. How marvelous it would be if by our help, if by an intelligent treatment of the child, if by understanding the needs of his physical life and by feeding his intellect, we could prolong the period of functioning of the absorbent mind!"

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