Over the past few months I have shared our teaching team's bios and all the qualities that they have that combine to make BELA such a special place. The one bio I haven't shared yet is that of our Director of Education, Jody Rutherford who is the founder of BELA and my Mom! Throughout my life I have often wondered if my Mom is such a wonderful Teacher because she is a such a great Mom or vice versa...the age old question, which came first.....
When my sisters and I were growing up, my Mom worked, a lot! She was always at the school and we spent many weekends there playing, or when we were older practicing our various sports in the gym while she worked. She spent early mornings and late nights there. As an Administrator she was forever running here or there on weekends or evenings to meet with a staff member who needed her or a parent who just needed to talk. She sat up late at night worrying about this child or that, wondering if they were getting everything they needed at home, and if they weren't, making a plan to ensure their time at school the best and most impactful that it could be, to sustain them while they were at home. If they weren't getting the love and compassion they needed at home, she would pick that one special teacher or assistant to put them with, knowing they would spend seven hours a day, five days a week feeling special. Could that make the difference for them? Often it did, but when it didn't I know it hurt and she still talks about those children today. I am shocked that we didn't end up with 50 or 60 more siblings over the years! She sees gifts and abilities in children that others don't and sees challenges that children face that others sometimes can't acknowledge. As teenagers we often talked about how much my Mom loved her job! I still do not know anyone who loves their job as much as her, who has the passion that she has for education and who will put in the kind of time that she did and still does everyday to be a positive influence in the lives of children.
As a Mom to three girls I am sure there were some extremely challenging days, in fact I know there were because she told us! She has always been honest about the joys and challenges of parenting, especially as a working Mom , with a demanding career. She knew each of our strengths and gifts and gently pushed us in the direction that would best utilize our talents. She also knew our weaknesses and challenged us to focus on them and improve, to set goals and make plans to achieve those goals. Though she worked a million hours a week she spent her weekends driving us to sports & dance. She rarely missed a game, even when I played in College. Most weekends I would look up into the stands and see her and my Dad there. She spent early mornings taking us to practice before she went to work and late nights patiently listening to the current heartbreak and drama of teenage girls! Her gifts as a teacher were often used in our home- most definitely her ablility to instil in us a strong sense of self.
I never had the opportunity to work with my Mom until she decided to start BELA. Education is not my background or area of expertise but she brought me on board to help her with the business side and it is a decision that I will never regret. Making her dream a reality is truly a gift to me and our family. That being said, I don't think I truly understood the depth of her passion for education until now. She fought her way through miles of government red tape to bring her vision to life. She will fiercely defend her decisions to purchase items at the school, even if I say I am not sure if we can afford it at the time. Her argument is alway the same, " But the kids need it!" So it is my job to find the money to make it happen. It is a challenge but I've always loved a challenge! We are now back to watching her worry about some of our students and push herself to find ways to support them in any way we can. I see her again spending extra time with parents, just lending an ear and if needed offering solutions. The things that bring her the most joy at BELA.....watching our student's awe and excitement as they work on a science experiment, seeing a student write their name on their own for the first time, seeing a shy child come out of their shell under the guidance of the team we have put together and sharing ideas with our staff about how to instil a love of learning in our little students!
If you haven't read my Mom's BIO before, I urge you to take the time to read it. If your child attends BELA I think it's important to know the level of experience and knowledge your child is exposed to every day through our programming and through interactions with Jody. I'm not going to lie, it's a pretty impressive bio and makes me proud to know all the things my Mom has accomplished over her 35 years in Education.
I am not sure if I have the answer to the chicken or the egg question. I believe that her background and experience played a strong role in her approach to parenting but I also believe that her love for us carried over into her love of all children and her passion for helping them. It took me awhile to write this post as I found it difficult to be objective about a person who has influenced me everyday for 33 years! Then I realized.....it's okay to throw the objectivity out the window and just share my view of a lady who is both my Mom and now my partner at BELA. So while it may not be objective, every word is a glimpse into my life with a lady who is a phenomenal educator and parent. And which came first....maybe we will never know. But I do know that I am blessed to have a Mom who has the background that she does, who has now become a Grandma and is doing all the things she did for me for my babies. A Mom who I can ask almost any question about my boys and she has not only an answer but a strategy and a plan in minutes! And all her students have been lucky, whether they knew it or not to have a teacher and or administrator with a true passion for helping children, the tenacity to fight for what they need and the ability to see each child as an individual with all their gifts!