We met when I was coming out of hibernation. My only job was to heal, and so I lay on Douglas, the couch, for 14 weeks, watching the sun move across the horizon as the days and months passed. Getting up and getting out was a major production, especially once my Suzi-Sitters were gone. I needed help at every piece of the process - off the couch, over the thresholds, down the path, into the car (somebody do something with my assistive device, please), being driven and then reversing the process to arrive at my event.
The event had to be something really worthwhile. Showing up at Prince Elementary School to judge children's photographs was really worthwhile. I fell in love... with the school, with the kids, and with the Assistant Principal, Tanya Wall.
I don't usually include real names in The Burrow. Blogonyms are used to protect the innocent and the guilty alike. But this is different.
This is a tribute to a Wonder Woman, a Kindness Crusader (second from the right), an educator and a parent and a friend. This is a story about GRIN, and how a well placed foot in my keister kept the ball rolling when it faced deflation and despair.
This is a tale of a true American hero.
She started out in Wyoming, and that's where she's returning. The kids are grown and on their way, and it's time for a change. She's taught and she's administered and now she's taking those skills back home.
She will be missed.
When all seemed lost, when no one signed up, when interest flagged, Tanya was there, propping me up. Just because it's hard doesn't mean it shouldn't happen - she reminded me of that whenever things looked bleakest. We will get this done, she promised. And we did.
She convinced teachers and administrators and students that Pilates in the Classroom was a worthwhile endeavor; the GRIN/BodyWorks/Amphitheater collaboration happened only because she believed that it would. Now, five years and counting, we are part of the PE Curriculum at Amphi Middle School. It's only one of the lasting impacts Ms Wall has had on her students.
She ran AVID, supporting those students who were looking for a more structured path to a more favorable future. She saw potential where others saw problems. She put herself at risk - chaperoning middle schoolers on a three day trip to Ft. Lauderdale must qualify one for hazard pay - and she took time from her weekends - picking up and transporting and returning three otherwise-rideless-teens to Pilates practice every Sunday for months - and she never stopped smiling.
Just because it's hard doesn't mean it shouldn't happen. I don't know many people who talk the talk and walk the walk the way that Tanya does.
She moved on from Prince and Amphi Middle to the more upscale K-5 school where she'd taught before I met her, before she began pursing her administrative career. They loved her there as much as we did at Prince and, although the details were different, the challenges were the same. Teachers and parents and students have issues no matter how much nicer the cars in the parking lot appear to a casual observer. Parents don't live together, English isn't a primary language, violence is seen as a solution instead of a problem.... all that mixed in with lost sweatshirts and forgotten homework and families who certainly know what's best for their child, even if everyone else disagrees.
Her office's glass windows face the parking lot and the main office; she sees things coming and going. The walls are covered with student art and upbeat reminders and a diploma or two. It's the official time out space for kids who are too stressed, too defeated, too angry to be anywhere else. Ms Wall's energy is a Zen Blanket for those in need; you admit your errors while feeling the love.
Isn't that the definition of an educator?
She's someone who steers you along your path, opening doorways and windows to spaces and places you've never considered, but which look pretty interesting once she shares her enthusiasm. She's a Yes, you can! person in a What do I do now? world. She's got a hug and a smile and an encouraging word for everyone.... but don't think that she's a pushover. There are rules and there are standards and they exist for everyone in her aura - colleagues, parents, students, and friends. She has high expectations and boundless energy. She's a reader and a thinker and a doer. She sees the need and constructs a solution, bringing others along, happily in her wake.
She's a friend who has never disappointed me. She will be missed.