Thursday, February 11, 2010

Goodbye, Dr. Jan

I just learned of the sudden and unexpected death of Dr. Jan Borelli. Over the last several years, our paths crossed in many ironic and wonderful ways. Even though we worked several states apart, I came to find out that she attended college at Auburn University, a mere two hours from my house and that her college roommate was from the city where I currently live.

Jan and I were both Editorial Advisors for the National Association of Elementary School Principals at the same time and shared an interest in blogging. We were avid readers of each others' blogs. When my first book was in manuscript form and was sent to reviewers, the comments of one particular reviewer struck me. For some reason, I had this feeling that of all of the people in the country to whom this manuscript could have been sent, that Jan Borelli had been the reviewer. As it turned out, that was indeed the case. Not only were her comments extremely helpful in honing the manuscript, but following the book's publication, she was an avid supporter.

The picture of Jan with me that you see here was taken at ASCD two years ago. That event marked the first opportunity I would have to present at a national convention. When it came time for my presentation, Jan was on the front row. Later during the convention, I attended her session, joining a standing-room-only crowd. At the conclusion of her session, she publicly recognized me and encouraged everyone in the room to read the book I had authored.

At that conference, Jan had been asked to blog about her experiences at the ASCD conference. Her very kind words were as follows:

But my favorite presentation of the day was by Dr. Frank Buck. Who would imagine that from 5:15-6:15 on Saturday afternoon 240 educators would stay to learn how to "Get Organized: Time Management for School Leaders?" But they did. Frank was fun and engaging, but more importantly, he was "rubber hit the road" on the mark for simple ways to organize our professional endeavors for success. He described and trained us on five tools, techniques and practices to make life easier: the tickler file, the "signature tool," repeating tasks, documentation, and emptying your e-mail every day. We laughed and stayed engaged the entire hour as we learned and had "smack your head" moments of enlightenment. Everyone around me was going to the Exhibit Hall to find the Eye on Education booth to get a signed copy of Frank Buck's book. I know I will be first in line tomorrow!

Others who know Jan will probably nod as they remember times when she gave a "leg up" to those around her.

I enjoyed reading "Dr. Jan's Blog" and sharing from several states away her thoughts about those things dear to her, whether it be turning a school around, the latest accomplishments of family members, or her passion for horses.

Of all of the posts she wrote, my favorite is one from December 2007. I had tried to call Jan at Westwood for several days just before that post appeared and found it odd that nobody was answering the phone on weekdays during early December. The post not only answered that question for me, but provided a look inside the feeling of community that is alive in a place called "The Hippest School in America."

Below is that post in its entirety. I encourage those who have not read Jan's blog to do so and enjoy the wealth of wisdom and wit that is there and that will continue to move and motivate readers even though Jan is no longer with us in body.

The Frigid Plains, Tamales, and Family

In Oklahoma, we have been experiencing the aftermath of a pretty massive ice storm. We were all glued to our windows as the rain poured and the temperatures dropped; and it was all amazing and awe-inspiring. The quiet beauty of the coldness; and then the nastiness started... a lot like a good date gone bad.
At first we just noticed the trees bending with weight; and since we are in the usual dry and dusty plains, we don't have a preponderance of trees... and those we do have, we honor. So, we watched with concern. Then the lines strung from one pole to the next began to buckle from the weight; and as we stood outside we could hear "snaps" of wires breaking and limbs and trees tumbling.

Electricity disappeared, and we were reminded of how important electricity is. People all over the state were scrambling for generators as over half a million homes were suddenly without power; and state records for the horror of the ice storm began to be made. And, my own home was without electricity and phone service and, worst of all, our internet service was gone.

School was cancelled beginning Monday and continued to be cancelled through Friday. Since my school is on a year round schedule, we planned to begin our winter intersession this coming Monday, so it's been sad to lose the excitement that young children inspire as the holidays approach. Wednesday, all my faculty and staff and myriads of parents came to the school to make tamales for our xmas sale to raise funds for a marquee.

It was an endearing time that continued through Thursday for the heartiest of tamaliers. The parents brought their small children and taught us how to make tamales, and we the faculty learned an age old custom. I am pretty sure none of us will forget this ice storm nor the experience of working together for the children of the school. Most of us don't speak Spanish nor do our parents speak English, but there we were shoulder to shoulder in the most difficult and precise act of creating tamales; and we felt a bond that still warms us all, as we sang or hummed Christmas song. I worry about most of the children. I worry about their needs for warmth and food.

Our church, NorthHaven, has been in service to our community here in Norman. Those without homes, food, electricity have found their way to NorthHaven and have found the welcoming presence of our pastor, our pastoral staff, our members. The ice storm gave us more than a lack of electricity and some personal crises; it gave us moments of family and community.

I have not been feeling very bloggy lately. Maybe I'll crank back up or not....
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