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Staff Bios

Beverly , Director

As I begin my twenty first year as Director at SMCNS, I marvel how the time has passed so quickly and that even after all these years, each day brings something new - something new to experience, something new to learn. Over the years, I have found that there is a new lesson to be learned from each person - parent, child, and colleague - that I meet at SMCNS.

My SMCNS experience began in 1978 when I came as a parent with my second-born child, Melanie. My eldest child - a son - went to another local co-op preschool. My youngest also went here from 1979 through 1982. During my four years as a parent at SMCNS, I served on the Board of Trustees as Bulletin Editor and as President. Also, I was a Parent Teacher in each of the groups at one time or another, and enjoyed that experience so much that it influenced my decision to begin a course of study in Early Childhood Education.

In my first college life, I graduated from The George Washington University with a major in British Literature, which led to a start-up career as a technical editor for the Arctic Institute of North America. For several years I worked with scientists and researchers to create reports, books, and published proceedings of symposia. Then I became a wife, step mother to two teenage boys and, in the course of five years, the mother of one boy and two girls.

My real career - as an Early Childhood Educator - began at the Lake Avenue Congregational Church Preschool as a teacher for two days a week in the class for two-year-olds. On the other three days of the week, I was the Early Childhood Associate at LACC. In that position, I managed all of the Sunday and weekday programs for children aged birth through kindergarten. Concurrently with this employment, I studied UCLA Extension to earn a Basic Core Certificate and an Advanced Core Certificate in ECE. I also hold a California Instructional Permit.

Three years after leaving SMCNS as a parent, I was invited to come back as the Teacher in Group III. The four-year-old age group has always been my favorite, so that job was really a pleasure. When the Multiage Group was instituted, I was also the Teacher for that group in the afternoon.

In the meanwhile, my children attended High Point Academy, then Flintridge Prep for two of them and Polytechnic School for the other. Then they headed off to pursue their “higher education” to become the owner of an environmental remediation business, a teacher, and a physician respectively. Between them and the step sons, they have produced 14 grandchildren so far. I do believe that the greatest reward of all the parenting efforts we put forth is to see the wonderful parents our children become.

Now that the nest is empty, I have some time to devote to caring for, riding, and sometimes showing Sundown, the Tennessee Walking Horse gelding that I own jointly with SMCNS teacher Joan. Growing roses is also a hobby I enjoy, along with traveling with Richard, my husband of nearly forty years.

Myrna, Group IV-V AM & PM

I came from El Paso, Texas to Pasadena to attend college. After graduation, I taught fourth grade for five years until I had a baby. When my son was two, we started looking at nursery schools. Now, I knew nothing about nursery schools. I didn’t know people who had gone to them, and certainly had not grown up with any notion that children needed a nursery school experience. We visited Pacific Oaks and SMCNS. I had no idea what I was seeing, what it meant, or what it would mean in my life when the Director called and said there was a spot for my son Group 1.

In December of 1981, director Lillian Burke asked me if I would like to work at SMCNS as the Kindergarten Assistant. I’d no idea what I was committing to, what the job was even about, or how many people had declined her invitation prior to my receiving the job offer! I’d tried to stay under the radar at SMCNS, quietly doing my days, never asking to be a Parent Teacher, and only serving on the Board because my husband agreed that we would take on the fund raising position when I was out of town. I was painfully shy, and even more painfully uninformed about the life of young children. It would seem that the $276 dollars I was paid each month was something I should have been paying the school to let me be there!

There was no way that I could have predicted that Group 4/5 would provide me with more life lessons in more subject areas than I could have known. When I took over the class in September of 1981, I was hoping no one would notice all I didn’t know. But in this place, I’ve had the amazing fortune to learn about children, about myself, about the natural world, and to live out what, for me, has been a deeply satisfying vocation.

It is with a grateful heart that I can say that I continue to evolve as a teacher in the class, that I am able to retool and recreate, while holding onto the basic truths I’ve depended on about the developmental needs and tasks of children who have shared reciprocal growing opportunities with me. I cannot believe my good fortune, that for twenty seven years, I’ve been able to teach while watching people learn new skills in the wonderful facility we are fortunate enough to call ours. Some people note my affinity for the natural world, but none of that existed until a child showed me how woefully inept I was about that world. Then, there are the gifts that just arrived, like a headless bird that fell out of the sky and into the group. A child hanging upside down on the monkey bars could expand on the tale as we gathered around that bird, for she had seen the much bigger bird carrying that body in its mouth. You can’t make these stories up, and they happen in not the same way but in ways that excite and capture my curiosity and that of the children alike over the years.

I know that I can’t do this forever, that someday I will have all the time I would want to garden, walk, read, knit, cook, and write. But for now, I still cannot believe that Lillian’s taking a chance on me has given me extraordinary opportunities to grow and hopefully facilitate growth in the lives of parents and children alike. I’m a big believer in circularity, the positive kind, When this part of my life is over, and I’m having to create new conversations with my husband, Rick, that don’t involve the children and families at Nursery School, I think I’ll know in a deep place the value of living out a huge portion of my life at 701 East Sierra Madre Blvd.

Leanne, Group 1, AM & PM

Wanderlust and a ‘why-not’ brought me to the San Gabriel Valley in 1979. Filling the trunk and back seat of my Dodge Dart with my turntable and album collection, I traded gentle Ohio hills for Pasadena’s impressive mountains. The hardest part was leaving the grandparents I lived with who instilled me with a reverence for nature and nourished me with food from their garden. Without a plan and lots of prayers along the journey, I transitioned here as a twenty-year old long before I ever thought of marriage and family. This is the place, however, where “the plan” took shape and I raised my two children. I’m alumni of Youngstown State University, PCC and UCLA’s extension program, but Sierra Madre Community Nursery School is where I learned the most about everything important to me.

In 1988, I enrolled as a parent of a 3-year old son and a one-year old daughter, having the good fortune of immediate acceptance as a two-day parent teacher and, within a couple months, I was ‘drafted’ to the Board of Trustees as the Chair of the Home Tour. Did I mention I didn’t know what I was doing? And isn’t that the grace of this place? We can come in with nothing more than a willingness and an open mind and we can become more than we ever knew we could.

During my children’s tenure, I never stopped being a parent teacher or serving on the Board; I didn’t want to stop. I didn’t want to leave either when my daughter finished kindergarten here. Who knew I would get my secret wish to stay on as kindergarten assistant the weekend before school was to begin again? I will always consider that as one of my life’s greatest gifts received as it continues to give to me every day I participate in the lives of the children and the families I serve.

I have taught Group 1 summer school, Group 2 Multiage, Group 3 Stay and Play, and my permanent home of Group 4/5. Whatever capacity you may find yourself at SMCNS, be assured you are part of a big picture and a steward of what five visionary families began in 1947. From the peaceful book-reading in the quiet loft to the wild action of squealing fire-fighting tricyclists, there is wonder all around you. Co-ops are a privilege of observing young, developing minds overturning rocks searching for crickets to feed a captured lizard, dripping cornstarch and water through open fingers, splattering paint against a papered fence, constructing bridges and tunnels in a sandbox ….it never ends. Thank goodness.

Joan, Group II and multiage

I was born in New York City and spent summers sailing with my parents and two sisters in Maine. This is a tradition I look forward to enjoying every August. Otherwise, my home is in Sierra Madre, which I have found is a wonderful place for children to grow up. My girls and I have been part of the Fourth of July Parades, Emily was an enthusiastic tricycle rider in her Snow White costume for SMCNS.

I spend as much time as I can with my two daughters. Peabody, my older daughter, is an opera singer, actress, costume designer and writer. I love to see what she creates and go to as many of her performances as I can. Emily, my younger daughter, is in graduate school to become a Doctor of Physical Therapy. She is a fabulous caregiver and will be a wonderful therapist.

Besides two cats, Louie and Ella, and my older daughter’s dog that I sometimes babysit, I am happy taking care of my classroom pets – fish, rabbits, chicks, and sometimes ducks. Luckily I live close to school and the green grocers at the Farmers’ Market give me treats for the bunnies. I also lease a dear 28-year old horse Trixie. I ride her as often as her health will allow and on other days I walk, groom and love her.

I have a long and deep connection with Sierra Madre Community Nursery School since Emily began in Group 1. As a parent teacher, I soon fell in love with the school, staff, teachers, fellow parents and the children. I had recently moved to SM and had received strong recommendations for SMCNS. I liked the idea of a co-op school where parents would be volunteering in the classroom to enrich activities for the children.

As a California public school teacher in Montebello for 10 years, I taught grades K-2. I have a Masters Degree in Education, a Life Credential from the State of California and a Certificate of Competency in Bilingual Education. I had planned to return to public school as soon as my second daughter started to attend elementary school but I fell in love with the younger children. Each year I would say that I would work only one more year at the nursery school but that time frame has extended for 22 years. I’m proud to be associated with this fine school.

Eileen, Stay and Play

I grew up in San Francisco, the youngest (along with my twin sister) of a big family.  I graduated from the University of San Francisco, and have also completed Early Childhood Education units at PCC and UCLA extension. I have lived in the San Gabriel Valley for over 20 years.  My husband and I have been married for over 30 years and have 4 children, 3 of whom are alumni of the nursery school. 

I started at SMCNS as a parent in 1985.  I have been a parent, a parent teacher, a board member, and a staff member.  For the past 10 years I have worked in the afternoon "Stay and Play" program.   In this program every day brings a different challenge, and has allowed me to become very experienced at practicing emergent curriculum.  I love arriving every day, finding out who will be there, and seeing what we need to provide so that each child has a successful afternoon.

I also teach the Toddler Program.  I realize that my favorite part of the day is Song Time.  I love to sing my old favorites, as well as some new songs.   Music was an important part of my childhood, and it’s fun to pass that along.

Outside of school, I spend a lot of time involved in handicrafts.  Sewing, knitting, and quilting are all activities that I am passionate about.  I have taught classes in these to both children and adults.  I’m finding now that there are students in my sewing classes whom I first met as toddlers at SMCNS.