Barbara Szoradi was a dedicated and imaginative teacher for twenty–five years, the first five in kindergarten and the remaining twenty in third grade. I had the good fortune to spend fifteen of those third grade years with her in a strong and positive partnership. She was an extremely collegial and respectful teaching partner. We both valued the Quaker perspective of finding that which is special and unique in each child. It was the perfect lens for helping students reach their potential by teaching through their strengths while remediating their weaknesses.
From the very first day I was in third grade with Barbara, I could see she had a very special way of interacting with children. She treated all children in a firm, warm and accepting manner. She truly saw the possibilities for the “inner light” of each student. Her different expectations for individual children and understanding that they would progress at their own pace enabled her to value and accept them for who they were as she offered goals for them to strive for.
Barbara was and continues to be a committed “life-long learner”. She brought her curiosity, sense of adventure and love of the world around her to her students. This was especially true in her teaching of social studies. For the past ten years Barbara brought many of her own skills, passions and hobbies to the teaching of Colonial America by having her students actually experience this time in American history. Third graders washed and carded fleece, spun it into wool and then wove it into a pillow, pouch or mini-blanket. They also tried out many tools from that period of time – tools that belong to an extensive personal antique collection of Barbara’s. They used a hoe, an adz, a butter churner and a kick toaster, to name just a few, and also cooked and ate many foods that were prevalent at that time. All of these active projects made life in the colonial times come alive for her classes.
At the beginning of every school year, third graders participated in an archeological “dig”, which was authentic in every way except that Barbara recreated it anew each year, using artifacts that actually could have been found at our dig site. The children always thought that their experience was the real thing. The truth was not revealed until later in the school year. It was always amazing to hear the fourth graders, when they visited their old third grade room, recall with enthusiasm and delight their memories of the social studies experiences and projects from which they had learned so much the year before.
In addition to connecting with students, Barbara also had wonderful relationships with colleagues and families of the children she taught. She believed that as a teacher of young children it was necessary to partner with parents and other caregivers in order for children to be happy and successful at school. To that end, the lines of communication were always open and frequently used, whether by email, phone or unscheduled conferences to communicate what children needed to focus on and how parents and teachers could facilitate their growth. Barbara always showed care and support to families through carefully worded opinions that were often peppered with a healthy sense of humor. She reached out to colleagues who were involved with her students to make sure they were all working in the same direction with a common goal. This was especially true for those children who may have had either academic or social/emotional challenges.
Barbara was not only a dedicated professional in the classroom. Over the years she served on or clerked many faculty committees where she was an effective and collaborative member. She was always ready to take on hard tasks. Barbara was twice a member of the Faculty and Staff Council, served on the Social Studies Curriculum Committee, volunteered for numerous search committees, and was a strong presence on the Admissions Committee for PK and K candidates.
Barbara’s energy knew no bounds. Students, families, and colleagues will miss her, and her contributions will not be forgotten. I wish her well. I will miss spending my days with her. In retirement there will be more time for children, grandchildren, travel, exercise and being a docent at the National Gallery, and perhaps even some SFS projects.