Lynne Sanders Remembered
Happy faces of young children are a tonic. You can’t help but smile when you see them. And, when you hear about Lynne Sanders, you’ll most likely think of happy young children, and you’ll smile some more. We are thinking a lot about Lynne these days as last month she succumbed to her 11-year battle with cancer. While her death was not a shock, her passing has inspired many of her old friends and colleagues to pay tribute to her deep commitment and love for the seedlings of our community.
Her work on behalf of children is legendary. Community Building founder, Jim Sheehan, recalled, “Lynne came to me in 2000, totally frustrated by the lack of cultural and political support for early childhood education. She wanted to do something for the children.”
Lynne was inspired by the extraordinary schools of Reggio Emilia, an Italian town devastated by WWII but determined to rebuild itself with a strong community support system of early childcare and education. Reggio Emilia’s commitment to this foundational principal has not wavered – the town still dedicates 12-14% of its budget to support it.
Lynne’s commitment also did not waver. She proposed that Sheehan support the creation of a model preschool based on the principles espoused by Reggio Emilia. Her vision was to create an ideal environment to foster the children of Community Building employees and families in the broader Spokane community.
Two years and lots of hard work later, the Community Building Children’s Center opened its doors to the first crop of toddlers and pre-schoolers.
“Her reach into this community is pretty amazing,” says Anita Morgan, current director of Blueprints for Learning and long-time friend and collaborator of Lynne’s. “The legacy of training and support that she co-developed at the Spokane Regional Health District 17 years ago has been the seed and foundation of every child care quality improvement effort in Spokane ever since.” Anita marvels at how Lynne continued to serve families even as she struggled with enormous challenges to her health.
Anita and Lynne’s collaborative effort for young children and their families goes back thirty years to when they were co-facilitators of the Manito Parent Co-op. Anita recalls planning and thinking about kids and parents every day with Lynne, even after work. Lynne’s husband Dave would tease that every night after dinner when it was time to do the dishes, the phone would ring, and he knew it would be Anita on the line.
Lynne and Anita shared a deep commitment to elevating the importance of and support for educators of our youngest children. They recognized the enormous potential that childcare workers and preschool teachers have to impact the lives of children and families. Both eventually landed at the Spokane Regional Health District where they received a grant to design and develop a program to train and mentor preschool teachers to receive their CDA, a nationally recognized credential in early childhood education.Their work led to the creation of the Child Care Training Institute, run by Blueprints for Learning, and has been widely recognized for its excellence.
Anita says the synergy between the Children’s Center and the Institute is powerful. “Our daily teaching practices in the Children’s Center inform our training philosophy and content. Our training practices and offerings inform our Children’s Center teaching.”
The Gates Foundation and United Way are among many fans of what Blueprints for Learning has offered Spokane’s early childhood programs.
We caught up with two former students enjoying lunch with their father at The Main Market on Valentine’s Day. ten-year-old John DeForrest is now in fifth grade. “I remember lots of painting, drawing and working with blocks,” he said. “My favorite was learning to read.”
His brother, Robert, is seven-and-a-half and remembers making guitars out of cardboard boxes and tubes. When asked about his favorite memory, Robert replied, “I don’t really have a favorite memory. They’re all good memories.”
The boys’ father, Chris DeForest, says he loved taking a break form his work at the Inland Northwest Land Trust and going downstairs to have lunch with his kids. He also liked that the wood furniture and toys were of such good quality that they were worth fixing. Chris says he once took home and fixed a broken wooden rolling pin, which probably would have been tossed if it were plastic . “I liked following my dad around learning to fix things,” he says, and hopes his boys will do the same.
Talking to people around the Community Building reveal many long and deep connections to Lynne Sanders. Here are just a few – Foundation Director Patty Gates and Lynne were college friends and their families used to vacation together back in the day. Kizuri’s Kim Harmson was hired in Lynne’s position as co-facilitator of Manito co-op . Lynne’s husband Dave was office manager for the Center for Justice and self-appointed “community builder” as the Saranac and Community Buildings grew and evolved. And on and on, as the seeds and seedlings Lynne planted continue to prosper.