WINTHROP — Linda Findlay, the guiding force behind Wonder Awhile Nursery School for the past 30 years, is retiring as director and teacher at the school for 3- and 4-year-olds at Winthrop United Methodist Church on Main Street.

Findlay, 65, is being praised for her creative approach to preschool and her way of making learning fun. She was honored at a retirement party at the church on Saturday.

“It has just been an absolute pleasure and gift to be one of their first teachers,” said Findlay. “They are like little sponges soaking up information. I will miss the children, no doubt about it. We’ve seen them grow. Watching them discover something for the first time, seeing that wonder on their face when they do something for the first time — it’s beautiful. If I have done anything (important), it’s to provide that sense of wonder to them.”

Findlay will be succeeded as director of the nursery school by Jane Brennan of Winthrop. Findlay started as a chaperone and substitute teacher in 1982, began teaching at the school in 1983, was acting director in the mid-1980s and became full-time director in 1989.

Findlay is a native of Braintree, Mass., who graduated from Bates College with a bachelor’s degree in sociology.

Wonder Awhile Nursery School was founded in 1964 by Priscilla Small and the late Midge Chamberland.

The nursery school had a total enrollment of 60 youngsters this school year. Besides Findlay, teachers Vicki Tully and Terri Simonson work at Wonder Awhile.

Findlay said she believes in play with a purpose.

“I think we all learn better when we’re having fun,” she said. “Mostly listening and speaking. We’re seeing a huge increase in children with language delays. Children are not talking as much. They’re plunked down in front of computers or TVs, but they’re not having conversations. We encourage them to talk in complete sentences.”

There are no computers in any of the classrooms at Wonder Awhile. But those classrooms are packed with interesting playthings. Findlay’s room has multi-colored carpet showing all of the United States. She said that was used to teach geography in a multitude of ways.

Small, who was director and a teacher at the nursery school for six years and is now a member of the school’s board, said of Findlay, “She’s just been so steadfast. She’s a very calm, well-educated woman with great ideas. She has an innate ability to know what little preschoolers need.”

Stacy Shuman, a Wonder Awhile parent, said Findlay excels at teaching “learning through play.”

“One of the neat things is that I’ve been here long enough that I’ve seen alumni parents who went here as children and they’re now bringing their own children to the school,” Findlay said. “I’ve been seeing that for the last 10 years or so.”

For many years, United Methodist Church let Wonder Awhile use its rooms in the church for free. The church considered the school its mission. But for the last several years, the school has been turning over 5 percent of its tuition to the church.

Wonder Awhile is not a religious school and does not teach religion.

Findlay the school teaches “good values and good decision-making, how to get along and be responsible, and how to be kind and gentle with each other.”

She is married to Doug Findlay, who is retired from a career at KeyBank.

Findlay’s three daughters, Heather, Sarah and Megan, each have two children. In retirement, Findlay said she and her husband plan to do some traveling to visit with their family.

 


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