We are so pleased to be celebrating Paula’s 25th year at CGS this year. She has touched the lives of so many children and families during her time at CGS. She has prepared countless assemblies, cut out a multitude of crafts, convened I don’t know how many Veteran’s weeks, organized Holiday Outreach events and Norval sleepovers, tutored a gazillion kids (including my teenage son Ollie) and generally given her heart and soul to us all. And now, in the complex, virtual world that is teaching in 2020, she continues to bring passion, love and determination to her job. Unfortunately, we can’t celebrate our big anniversaries together as we usually do because of Covid-19, so instead, please take a minute to read the moving (and totally apt) tribute to our beloved Paula from parent alumni, Alison Ferris.

It’s safe to say that teachers who specialize in the early learning years will leave the biggest footprint on a child’s educational development. These teachers are a very special breed. SK teachers in particular must draw on a very unique set of skills and personality traits to connect with their students. The developmental stages of their students are so varied – in September, they can seem almost like pre-schoolers and by June they are like little grown ups. There is a lot to accomplish in an SK classroom – students focus on reading and writing, math, STEAM, character education, and public speaking. They also work on social skills, table manners, personal hygiene and, yes, even bathroom etiquette. (Just ask Zandee!) It takes a very special person to find joy in working with early learners, and it truly takes an exceptional human to do this job well and to do it well for an entire career.

For twenty five years Paula Woods has been an exceptional teacher and senior leader at CGS and she has shaped the lives of hundreds of children over the course of her tenure. If you are lucky to know Paula, you know that she’s a little bit like Mary Poppins. Not because she has a beautiful British accent, but because she brings a whole lot of magic and fun to the world, to CGS and to her classroom. Year after year Paula welcomes a fresh roster of SK students, along with their parents, who are eager to see the developments that the year will bring.  And year after year, her students go on to grade one, incredibly prepared, forever changed, and with a little bit of Paula-magic instilled in them.

Paula’s magic is her incredible gift to see the hidden – sometimes almost invisible – strengths inside her tiny students. She identifies them early on and spends the entirety of the school year nurturing and developing those strengths until they are proudly (almost miraculously) instilled as forever-traits that will set the child apart as they move forward into the world. Paula inspires a sense of wonder in her students and truly sees them as magnificent creatures whom she genuinely adores. You need only read her comments on any piece of marked school work to get a taste of the amazing way she engages her students – “Aren’t you a special person!”, “Way to go poppet!”, “You’re so clever!”, “Look at you go!!”, “Are you the smartest person in the world?”. I can hear her voice in every word as I type this.

My little ‘poppets’, Charlie and Avery, were each incredibly fortunate to have had Paula as their SK teacher. As a parent, I still draw on the lessons that I learned from her. For one, children will become the children they think we see. If we see them as superstars and treat them like superstars that is what they will become. I feel proud to know the exceptional human that is Paula and I feel so incredibly lucky that she touched the lives of my two children. To this day I can see some of her magic in them.

~ The Ferris Family