I’ve always enjoyed journaling and writing poetry. I even have a children’s book from long ago collecting dust in the back of my closet.
But my writer’s journey really began when my mentor and dear friend was retiring as education director from the same religious school that she founded—before we had books or curriculum–when religious school was just Rita’s vision.
She took me under her wing and allowed my abilities and talents to unfold naturally. She believed in me when I was just a neophyte; and lesson plans, units, and classroom management were exciting but scary. Trying out new lessons was exhilarating, but at the same time they made my stomach queasy—so we often had long talks to allay my concerns. Then she recommended me for the Penn Literacy Network scholarship—which changed my whole perspective on teaching.
I wondered, How do you even begin to thank someone for all of that? When she was retiring, I utilized my talents and abilities as an artist and writer to give back that ignited a passion deep inside.
So I decided to step way, way out of my comfort zone and spearhead a school –wide project to say thank you to my mentor, dear friend, and founder of the religious school.
I began to think of Rita’s vision as a tiny seed that bloomed into a mature jeweled oak tree–because Rita always referred to her students as the jewels. Then I thought about how Golda Meir’s vision helped shape the modern state of Israel, which I symbolized with a growing cactus nestled in the oak tree.
The interesting thing was the more I discussed my vision for the project, the more things started to fall into place. This was the first time that I can recall experiencing synergy—even the fabric for the tapestry came from trading a roll of canvas for a silk curtain fabric that the art teacher happened to have on hand.
I ended up writing a companion book that we presented as a school to Rita. Each page that I illustrated tracks how her vision became reality. So the two stories ran parallel—Golda’s story then Rita’s-written like an adult fairytale. At the end, the two stories intersected and became the design for the full length tapestry. That Rita said she spread over her dining room table and covered with glass.
Oh my gosh, I had chills, my heart sang out with joy. And I knew that another door was opening just a crack, enough for me to slip through, and I did.