Farewell Letter to Orchard | Julie Wingate - 32 Years
When I think about the last 30 plus years I am overwhelmed with images. My son started in preschool at Orchard with Mrs. Bork and I was hooked. I watched what was happening around him, felt the support of a community of teachers and friends, and knew it was a good place for both of us.
So many volunteer jobs later, I decided seeking employment here might be the best way to go. It has been such a privilege to work alongside dedicated professionals! We have seen a lot of changes; my son’s first year was Gordon Thompson’s last. However, through all the changes the heart of Orchard remains: children first, nature-focused, hands-on. I have learned so much in the intervening years, not only through teacher trainings, but by watching the classes going on around me. All those who have gone before us, Peg Sharples, Bonnie Smith, Diana Shellhaas, Shirley Steele, Julie Ritcher, and many more left rich legacies of knowledge from which we all profit today.
The campus itself is a character in the story of Orchard. The first thing that comes to my mind is a lovely beech tree by the Sugar Shack. It holds a special place in my heart. The spring wildflowers in the woods, the maple trees in the fall, the garden of one thousand tulips bulbs planted by first graders and Ms. P, and the sweet smell of maple syrup are all gifts we cannot take for granted.
The flow of Orchard provides teachers with opportunities to observe and follow students through their years. Kindergarten fairy tales, third-grade poetry night, fourth-grade plays, and graduation speeches are all chances to relish the growth and spirit of each individual student. When you come across a former student in your day-to-day life, now a young adult giving back in this world, you just want to shout with joy. It is privilege enough that they even want to speak with you... let alone share memories.
My current teaching partner is Carey Vincent, her mother, Linda Appel, is an Orchard teacher. I remember the day Carey was born, and before I knew it she was a student in my preschool class. Now she is my co-teacher. I think that is a unique Orchard story!
When you have the honor of spending your days with four and five-year-olds, you will never be bored. They’ve taught me to never go a day without learning and never go an hour without smiles and laughter. The children offer so much love and curiosity that you cannot help but respond. Every child is the most precious gift. I close my eyes and see beautiful faces, feel sticky fingers holding mine, and witness a desire for knowledge that is infectious and inspiring.
I leave with so much love and gratitude for all my students, parents, colleagues, and for Orchard the institution. I am, forever, an Orchard Owl.
We will celebrate Julie the right way once we get through the challenges of COIVD-19, but in the meantime, families from her final classroom decided to give her a car parade send-off. Julie, we love you!