Jan Ney Patterson is retiring after more than two decades of work at the RSCC and on the first weekend of June there were two events in honour of her. The first was a dinner on Friday June 3rd for RSCC board members and select guests, and the second was an open house and tea on Sunday June 5th to which the wider community was invited.
The June 5th event featured a surprise marionette show of Briar Rose, one of Jan’s favourite stories, presented by the Silk and Strings Puppet Troupe. Members of the troupe include Patti Wolfe, Dianne Goldsmith, Laurie Harper Burgess, Debbie McAlister, Mario Mancuso, Tara Chen and Remi Yeo. There were 67 people present for the 3 pm performance. The next day, on Monday, there was another performance of Briar Rose, for Toronto Waldorf School students, also held at the RSCC.
On Friday night Jan was honoured with speeches from board chair Robert McKay, board member Julian Mulock, and long-time colleague Patti Wolfe. Jan was also presented with an artwork by Julian Mulock featuring the planetary seals. Patti has kindly given permission for the text of her tribute to Jan from Friday night to be shared here.
A big surprise for Jan on the occasion of her retirement was the return from England for a visit of past RSCT and WSAO administrator Jean Thomas Hawkes, whom Jan visited during her trip to England a few years back.
Tribute to Jan Patterson on the Occasion of her Retirement
by Patti Wolfe
Way back in 1982 Jan and I became colleagues… 40 years ago!
And now from this “farther down the road” vantage point, it seems very likely that we have been colleagues much, much longer than that.
We had both been on the same path, we both went to Emerson College, and had Margaret Meyercourt as our Early Childhood teacher (although Jan went to Emerson earlier and went on to be Margaret’s devoted apprentice for a few years after that).
And so it was that in 1982 I became Jan’s Kindergarten assistant at the Toronto Waldorf School and I was very pleased to have that opportunity. I was full of admiration for all that she brought to the classroom. She was just as much of an idealistic perfectionist then as she is today , the classroom was impeccably beautiful, every detail was looked after with great care, the Waldorf EC pedagogical principles clear and well embodied and the children well guided, much enjoyed and well loved.
Two things stand out in my memory of those times. One was watching her clean and polish the kettle daily. Something beyond my own inclination but very impressive!! The other was her celebration of the festivals. Jan’s classroom festivals were bigger than life. Not only was the classroom beautifully transformed and the children’s circle and story well prepared but each one was a true ceremony and she often had Lady Spring or the Summer King (other adults in full flowing costumes) arrive to be part of it all to greet the children and give them words of wisdom and special gifts.
It was always a rich experience of cosmic rhythms and earthly details coming together and as a result I hold her at least partially responsible for my own compulsive passion for festivals.
My time in Jan’s Kindergarten was short lived as I had to leave when I gave birth to my first child. I had been so taken with her spiritual integrity that I asked her to be Luke’s godmother which led us to many more shared festival celebrations, especially Three Kings Day.
A number of years later we were in a different kind of colleagueship. I was the chair of the Early Childhood Faculty at TWS and she had become the Director of Early Childhood Education at the Rudolf Steiner Centre.
In that capacity Jan made a concerted effort to be a bridge between RSC and TWS. She strove to keep the communications open, which wasn’t always easy, and she came regularly to our EC meetings for the study portion or for topics of shared concern. We were always very grateful for the wisdom and experience she shared.
During that time we also crossed paths at the various Waldorf Education conferences that she faithfully attended. She was an integral member of the Teacher Education Network, very connected with the work of WECAN and AWSNA and with the Waldorf EC movement worldwide. She was very committed and respected in all those circles and she was always happy to share the new information and wisdom that was gained.
At the 2019 WECAN conference we were very grateful to have her at our indigenous marionette performance, offering such “enthusiastic, hometown moral support” for us as we braved that big stage. She felt like one of the troupe. Stories and puppetry were always a passion for Jan and we appreciated all her support for that part of our work over the years (all the shared silks, stories and suggestions)
When I retired from TWS in 2017 and I thought that I was finished with teaching, much to my surprise she drew me in and encouraged me to take on some teaching at RSC. We once again had the opportunity to work side by side, sharing the students, the curriculum and the festivals which has been very rewarding. It was wonderful to witness her work with the teacher trainees. She supported each one in the unfolding of their individual path with such loving attention and dedication, seeing them through their struggles in confidence, their karmic knots and stressful ceremony preparations. She brought great beauty, a wonderful sense of order and professional integrity to the program, all carried with much good humour and joy!
As a colleague Jan always “had your back” as they say. She also had your front, both sides, your above, your below, your past and your future! She has a phenomenal capacity for thinking of everything and everyone. I always felt very well held by her in my work as did all those in all the programs she led! By looking after every earthly detail the path was made clear for the spirit to shine though. This she did over and over again for the benefit of so many.
I am deeply grateful to have worked alongside you all these years. You have been such a wonderfully supportive friend and colleague and a true inspiration from the very beginning. Blessings on your way forward, however that unfolds.
And don’t forget to be ready for a few surprises!
The Briar Rose marionette show on Sunday was perhaps one of the surprises Patti was alluding to in her speech on Friday. Here we see the puppeteers and the stage on Sunday with a small part of the audience shown. There were 67 people in all.
On Friday, Tammy had the idea that, on the occasion of Jean Thomas Hawkes being here on a visit to honour Jan, we should recreate one of the historic photos that was hanging in the hallway at RSCC. So here are the results of that effort, first the original picture from many years ago, and then the recreation of it on June 3rd:
Below: Jean Thomas Hawkes with Julian Mulock, happy to see each other after several decades:
Jan with the artwork by Julian of the planetary seals, with which she was presented on Friday evening:
Karen Weyler, talking with one of Jan’s recent EC part time grads, with tea being served in the background:
Briar Rose puppet show presented by Silk and Strings Marionette Troupe:
Jan with a few of the many friends who came out on Sunday to wish her well:
The lead photo at top is from when Jan was studying at Emerson College in 1975/76. This and other historic photos from Jan’s career were included in slide shows that were presented at the Friday and Sunday events.
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