A Tribute to Lindsay McAuliffe
by Virginia Singer

A Tribute to Lindsay McAuliffe

It takes a village to raise a child—a group of remarkable, talented, and dedicated villagers to ensure that each child is nourished, loved and educated. For 43 years, Lindsay McAuliffe has been just such a teacher in the Sidwell village. Bob Smith, then Head of School, hired her in 1973 to teach second grade. She eagerly joined the group of young activist teachers who were transforming Lower School into a more progressive model of teaching and learning. She has taught second, third and fourth grades, sometimes as mixed-age classes, (2-3 and 3-4) and sometimes as single age classes; sometimes with a co-teacher and sometimes alone. During these early years she commuted to school on her motorcycle. She has been a consistent guide to students and teachers throughout her tenure here. She is known for her passionate advocacy of deep reading and for supporting the clear, thoughtful voices of writers. Her goal: to promote life-long readers, thinkers and global citizens. From day one, she was committed to her students, staying late into preparing for the next day’s lessons. She often shoed up on weekends to ensure she was ready and the classroom was organized. No wonder the students and many teachers, too, were convinced she slept at school.

Her classrooms were always filled with a variety of objects relating to the current theme. There were artifacts, works of art, costumes and posters—sometimes even animals, as when the class raised silkworms. Children’s work was prominently displayed. It was like stepping into a museum or art gallery. Each year her class would present a play, often a detailed, revealing play about China, with amazing costumes and props, taking both the classroom cast and the audience to a China of the past. For many years her fourth graders partnered with a class of first graders, sharing books and games and chopping vegetables for Martha’s Table together. She was adept at introducing new ideas and new ways to use standard methods. Recently, with a class of busy, boisterous 4th graders, she included yoga as a daily routine. This wasn’t the first time that yoga was introduced to her class. For a number of years she would promise that if everyone handed in their homework on time, she would stand on her head. And she did—freestanding for up to 10 minutes, then unfolding politely and righting herself to the amazement of the kids. For many years she took her class camping at Echo Hill each spring. She would spend a morning wading in neck deep thick mud, then appear at dinner with every hair in place. The next morning she would be up at dawn to take a group of kids to watch the cows being milked.

With her wide ranging interests and talents, Lindsay contributed in many ways. In the 1980’s she co-authored Origins: Bringing Words to Life. In the 1990’s, after a sabbatical and a National Education for the Humanities fellowship, she created the model for teaching ancient and traditional Chinese history and culture, forming a school-wide Chinese Studies program. She has worked closely with the Sackler Gallery. For many years Lindsay served as Lower School Curriculum Coordinator, facilitating conversations and crafting documents that captured both the philosophy and the joyful experience of teaching and learning at Sidwell Friends School.

Retirement provides more time for Lindsay to enjoy her many interests! She plans to continue working with individual students—providing extra help, especially with writing. And she will continue her love of children’s books, adding to her extensive collection. Travel has always been one of her joys—keeping up with family and friends and discovering new places to explore. During vacations she hiked in the United States and Europe and she plans to continue being outdoors. She loves opera and baseball; poetry and sports. She is an avid reader. Recently, Bailey has joined her family; a rescue dog of somewhat uncertain origin but with a gigantic personality. He often travels with Lindsay and her husband. And he leads Lindsay on daily walks. He is delighted to have more of her time and she is delighted to have the time for her many and varied interests.