When Pat arrived as a young teacher at Washington Montessori School, she brought a rug from home to cover the floor and had her husband build the shelves of her makeshift classroom. She taught eight children. There weren’t any models of what a Montessori elementary education could look like at the time; but Pat, with her particular fusion of vision, grit, loyalty and love, began transforming this small setting into an extraordinary educational institution, one serving 240 children that is now itself a model for Montessori schools nationwide.
And what Pat created not only transformed WMS, it transformed our children’s lives. Those of us lucky enough to have children or grandchildren pass through the doors of WMS know the meaning of free-thinking, autonomous learning, of love and support, of nurturing teachers who value creativity, and of community. What we owe Pat cannot be tallied. And yet here we are, approaching the eve of Pat’s retirement, a day we felt would never come, pausing to consider a question we in the wide, extended family of WMS have begun asking ourselves.
What can we give Pat in return?
Knowing Pat as we all do, she will downplay her departure. But for us, that’s not an option. And it’s vitally important we get this right, all four-decades of us who have been molded and influence by the Washington Montessori School that Pat created. We get to say thank you only once, and this is our time. The only thing we can truly offer Pat is not a glass bowl or figurine. Not even a celebratory speech and party, though there will definitely be those, too.
The only thing we can offer Pat—of course—is the knowledge and comfort that her school will continue to survive, thrive, and serve children for generations to come.
Our gift to Pat needs to be WMS itself.
Which brings us to The Pat Werner Fund for the Future of WMS. We want to establish in her honor a Fund that, if the entire community past and present gathers round her now, would be a turning point in the history of the school.
We want The Pat Werner Fund for the Future of WMS to have the clout to move the needle toward WMS’s financial independence, something Pat has yearned for passionately over the years: a freedom to offer tuition assistance to families in need even when the economy is down; or to raise faculty salaries to appropriate levels even when the roof springs a leak. No school in times of stress can lay off teachers as good as ours and hope to recover them a year later; nor can tuition be raised beyond slender levels without sending away the parents whose children call WMS home. Her Fund would allow the school to take intelligent risks into expanding markets and to secure its existing families and staff.
In sum, we want this Fund to celebrate her achievement and guarantee her legacy, so future generations can look back and remember what Pat Werner did for Washington Montessori and, through the Fund, continues to do for the school.