Joy in Small Things: The Lasting Legacy of Paideia’s Half-Day
“I was sitting with some of the development team from upstairs at Grandparents’ Day, and they said, ‘oh, the afternoon class — you have a lot of fun. We generally hear kid laughter, but we also hear a lot of adult laughter,’' Half Day teacher Andrew Haworth ’01 chuckles. Matching a child’s sense of play and wonder doesn’t come naturally to everyone, but for Andrew and his teaching partner, David, it’s in their blood. Although this is their first year teaching afternoon Half Day together, their history with Paideia, the Half Day and each other goes back much further.
“Mom was my teacher,” says David Walbert ’97. “She didn’t want to show favoritism, so she didn’t teach me anything,” he jokes. “So I started in the Half Day, but I had a little catch-up to do.”
Charlotte Walbert started teaching Half Day in 1983 and dedicated nearly 30 years of her life to the growth of Paideia’s smallest humans. “I must’ve started in-utero then,” Andrew follows, speaking of his mother, Dorothy Craft Evans, who started as a Half Day teacher at Paideia in 1978 before moving up to the Elementary School and then to administration, assisting Paul Bianchi. Although David and Andrew have known each other since childhood, neither of them could have predicted they would teach Half Day, let alone work together, but now the duo writes a new chapter in the continued legacy of their beloved mothers.
As early teachers and parents, Charlotte and Dorothy helped mold Paideia in its second decade and set a precedent for future teachers. The impact they share goes beyond the traditions they have left behind, such as singing “Gilly Gilly Good Morning” or acting out “Going on a Bear Hunt.” It goes beyond the bench on the Half Day playground that bears Charlotte’s name, or the picture frame gifted to Dorothy by a four-year-old student who, now in her 40s, still fondly remembers her teacher. The most valuable legacy they leave, and one that their sons continue, is the way they made people feel.
When David agreed to sub Charlotte’s half-day class for two weeks shortly after he graduated college, the advice she gave him was, “Just have fun; if you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.” He has carried that advice with him through great days and hard days, through multiple jobs throughout the years. “I think what I’ve gained from Mom,” says David, “is to find joy in such small things, such small victories. Having someone understand why the small victories are so exciting and to take joy in them has helped me realize and see their importance.”
Reflecting on their own experiences at Paideia, Andrew and David acknowledge what a privilege it is to enjoy school. It is part of the reason they became teachers: to advocate for their students and “to meet them where they are.” Andrew attributes his individualized, student-focused approach to his mom. When he was worried about his own daughter reaching milestones, Dorothy told him, “Meet them where they are. Does she enjoy school? Does she enjoy talking to you about the alphabet? Then that’s the win.” He applies that mentality to his work now in the Half Day, “If we’re having fun and they’re having fun, it’s all going to happen. They’re going to learn how to read. They’re going to reach these milestones.”
Though Paideia may physically change, and people will come and go, the spirit remains. “Buildings have changed, classrooms aren’t where they used to be,” Andrew reflects, “But my daughter, now in second grade, learns in the same classroom that I did at her age. I see the kids waiting on the wood chips for carpool and I am transported back to that time in my life.” He laughs, “Cars have gotten a bit nicer though. Not so many beat-up Volvos.” Leading Half Day, David and Andrew carry on the lessons and memories of their mothers, as well as Paideia’s early years.
David gets to see his mother’s impact in a special way this year, through one of his students — a child of one of Charlotte’s former students. He says, “Just knowing that she is so excited that we’re her child’s teachers because of her memories of Charlotte Walbert, it sets a big expectation. And we’re doing our best, but it just reminds you of the impact you could have for 30 to 40 years.”
Both feel fortunate to teach at Paideia and seek to bring joy and appreciation to everything they do. Rather than contemplate the future, David and Andrew focus on the day-to-day because, as Andrew observes, “it's not a bad way to spend your day. And for Charlotte and my mom, it was a great way to spend a lot of their lives.”