May 15, 2022
“Both/And” – is this the wisest expression out there now? Visiting with a friend last week, we were talking about a big change coming up in her life. She was both delighted and sad. Reflecting upon it, I realized that most Truly Big Decisions I have made in my life have been like that. Moving from Wisconsin back to Oklahoma when our first LifeWays Center was less than two years old comes to mind. I had just decided that I was going to become one of our full-time caregivers and continue as director for as far as I could imagine into the future. My husband’s professional life, however, changed our plans. My heart felt broken. One of the major results of that move was the eventual establishment of LifeWays North America. Instead of a single child care program with a localized course of training in Wisconsin, we expanded across North America and beyond, something that may not have happened had I settled myself contentedly into the original program.
As we approach our 25th year, we approach another significant threshold. It is a big both/and announcement, and many of youmay already know what it is. We celebrate, with open hearts and minds, the transition of our beloved Mary O’Connell (who has been with us since the beginning) from LifeWays out into the larger venue of the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association. What wisdom WECA had when they sought out Mary to become one of their coaches for people starting new early childhood programs in Wisconsin! Congratulations to them and to Mary! This will also allow her to settle into her local family and continue to deepen her beautiful Paradise Farm Education Program, a LifeWays Representative site in West Bend, Wisconsin. She is still with us – whew! – not as an employee but as an exemplar of the work!
After Mary completed Week One with our new cohort of LifeWays Early Childhood Training students in Boulder, we gifted her with a handmade quilt that reflects how and who she is. Scattered in between the beautiful fabric that was chosen were wonderfully representative words of this outstanding human being! The forest-themed fabric speaks of her deep devotion to Nature, and the words reflect her character. Thank you, Mary. Everyone in the organization agrees that we would not be where we are today if not for you.
So, one might ask, how do we go forward from here? Not surprisingly, we needed to hire three people to step into the various roles Mary has held in recent years. Believe it or not, another of our “been here from the beginning” colleagues Rosario Villasana is our new Certificate Trainings and Fundamentals Courses Director. While we are choosing to take things slow and easy at the moment, expect to see us expanding in these two venues in the not-too-distant future. Rosario is planning to reach out to LifeWays graduates to consider various positions they might play in establishing new programs. As Department Chair of Child Development and Family Studies at City College of San Francisco, former board president of The Alliance for Childhood of North America, international presenter on early childhood development, founder of our first LifeWays training in Spanish and ongoing mentorship to Escuela Popular in San Jose, teacher in various of our trainings, and consultant to Isadora Duncan classical modern dance (among other things), we are deeply honored that Rosario has taken this formative step into the ongoing development of LifeWays. Welcome, Rosario!
Another name that is likely familiar to you is our dear Acacia Moore who has been a major contributor to this blog and is now the Blog Coordinator. Excitedly, Acacia is also stepping into the role of Online Courses Director which was a major role Mary has carried for us in the last few years. Acacia’s skills and experience in this venue will be of immense value going forward. Right now we are focusing on the courses that already exist; however, Acacia will be exploring and developing new topics in the coming year. She has been devoted to the mission of LifeWays for many years as an educator, mother, faculty-in-residence at Rose Rock LifeWays Center in Oklahoma, as well as an instructor and mentor to LifeWays training students. She is also co-founder and faculty member of City of Fountains School in Kansas City. She is energized by envisioning and collaborating in new initiatives striving to protect the integrity of childhood. Her most recent self-education endeavor is studying curative education under the mentorship and training of the Mulberry Center for Curative Education. Welcome, Acacia!
Jenna Broehm is expanding her position with us, and is now the LifeWays North America Administrator. Her organizational skills are outstanding and, to be honest, knowing we were expanding her position was one of the things that helped me to keep breathing when Mary announced she was leaving! Jenna discovered Waldorf education while abroad and became deeply inspired by Steiner’s work. She finds joy in her administrative tasks and is a lifelong learner dedicated to LifeWays’ mission. She is a lovely mother to her precious toddler and is able to put into practice many of the LifeWays concepts. Jenna is passionate about nature and spending time with family, gardening, cooking wholesome foods, and exploring the outdoors. If you are not already familiar with Jenna, likely you will become so when you enroll in any of our online or in-person courses. She holds together the many threads that form the tapestry of LifeWays North America. Welcome to your new role, Jenna!
Soon you will be able to see the profiles of each of these inspiring individuals along with the rest of our staff on our website. Others include: Shanah Ahmadi, our Representative Programs Director and Board President; Michaeleen Hinca, our Publicity Coordinator and Newsletter Editor; Agaf Dancy, our Treasurer and Finance Coordinator; Michael Aldinger, our Bookkeeper and Student Financial Services Coordinator; and Emily Witkowski, our Social Media Coordinator. We have other wonderful and direct support from our other board members, student services directors, and online and in-person course teachers. Oh, and me – not sure what to call myself any more. I’ve always felt that Executive Director was a bit too stuffy for me. Founder is sort of okay. I like the idea, however, of moving in the direction of “loving supporter of the next generation”!
Thank you, dear readers, for your ongoing interest and love for LifeWays. Your positive thoughts and wishes for us during this transition are deeply appreciated! May we all continue to thrive in the Both/And.