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MARTHA SEZ: Rock on Miss Perkins ... and thank you

July 8, 2011
Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nodody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.

—Robert Fulghum, “All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten”

I write this column in recognition and acknowledgement of Miss Perkins’ longterm contribution to the children in her kindergarten classes, which in turn contributes to the community, and, as these students grow up and take off, to the greater world.

The community charges elementary school teachers with the sacred trust of educating our children.

The role of a kindergarten teacher, like Erin Perkins, is especially important, one of her former colleagues told me.

The kindergarten teacher leads the children in her classroom over the bridge from its parents into the world beyond home, helping them attain the independence they need to be successful in school, she explained. She considers Erin Perkins a born kindergarten teacher.

“Erin Perkins is strong for the children above all else,” she said.

Even though all of us once made the transition, it is easy to forget that kindergarten is a giant step for a small child. Kindergarten establishes the basis for the way an individual will approach the world.

Another veteran KCS teacher describes Erin Perkins as “the quintessential kindergarten teacher.”

As Robert Fulghum wrote, in his essay “All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” “Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.”

For 22 years, Erin Perkins has taught all of these things to kindergartners with kindness, intelligence and a sense of fun. She has the ability to see the world through the eyes of a child while remaining very much an adult.

The close teacher-student connection is apparent at kindergarten graduation, when every kindergartner, watching Miss Perkins for cues, flawlessly acts out a fairly complicated and very funny skit, including several songs — or on local slopes, where she has taken her students to ski on winter weekends.

The KCS teachers are remarkable, and I am confident that students will continue to receive a good education.

A KCS graduate recently wrote this to me: “...the kindness of Miss Perkins and many other teachers at KCS is precisely why I became a teacher. I hope to have a lasting impact on my students such as she has had on me.”

One parent told me that when her daughter was in kindergarten a couple of years ago, “Miss Perkins literally took away her shyness. At Little Peaks she wouldn’t go onstage, and at the beginning of kindergarten she just held onto me and wouldn’t let go. She had all of her fears taken away by Miss Perkins — she actually got my daughter to sing! And she could read by the time she got out of kindergarten.”

Another mom, whose daughter is now in college, told me that the children learned confidence by being encouraged to stand up in fron of the class and talk about anything they wanted to, whether funny, happy or sad. They learned that any emotion they wanted to express was acceptable.

“She was always, always wonderful,” said a graduate from the KCS Class of 2006. “And did you know she’s called the tooth fairy? Everyone would go to Miss Perkins with a loose tooth, because she could take it out without it hurting.”

As a reporter, I have been visiting Miss Perkins’ kindergarten for the last 15 years. For the last five years I’ve worked in a program at the school, and have enjoyed observing the kindergartners learn to read and to caption their artwork with strange, but decipherable, phonetic scrawls. Different days would be devoted to specific letters of the alphabet. Children were encouraged to bring in toys, objects, even people, whose names began with the letter under discussion. One little girl brought in a stuffed animal named Wanda on W day.

“Your kitty used to be named Kitty, not Wanda,” I pointed out.

“Yes,” the little girl said matter-of-factly, “I’m just calling her Wanda for W day.”

For Halloween, this child went in costume as “Miss Perkins when she was a little girl.”

Another elementary school teacher who served for years with Erin said, “The kids say it all. And they say “Rock on, Miss Perkins — and thank you.”

Have a good summer.



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