Tilden School founder Whitney Tjerandsen retiring; celebration next weekend

One week from tomorrow, an outdoor celebration is planned to celebrate the past, present, and future of West Seattle’s Tilden School. At the heart of it, the school’s founder. Here’s the announcement:

Whitney Tjerandsen of Tilden School Retiring

Almost 37 years ago, Whitney Tjerandsen had the same angst as many other West Seattle parents: how to find the right school for her own soon-to-be Kindergarten son. The difference was that she had taught in the Berkeley Public Schools for 12 years, so she really knew what she was looking for: a school where he, and any child, would learn and thrive.

She found one on Capitol Hill, only to face a waiting list that was completely full. Words from the director of that school kindled a spark: “You are a teacher! Use your teaching skills and love of kids and their learning – and start your own school.”

With Whitney ‘s boundless and newly focused energy, she did just that. Putting the word out to the West Seattle community, the first year of Tilden School began with 12 students and ended the year with 17; the next year, it grew to 35; the next 78, and so on. Tilden School was a reality! As the school grew, Whitney hired a cadre of like-minded teachers with the same love of kids and philosophy of teaching.

What makes Tilden School unique? Keeping the class size small (no matter the looming waiting lists) allows individualized education. Whitney herself meets with each child every few weeks, K through Grade 5, to review their reading progress, to help them utilize the crucial phonics and syllabification rules to open up the sounding out of new words that make a reader and writer.

Ever dramatic and engaging, she wears her Super-E cape to teach those logical, and illogical, rules of English words. After all, knowing “I can teach a rock to read,” (and has the rock that proves it!) inspires children to tackle learning, even the difficult tasks.

She holds high expectations for each child, while building in the structure to help them succeed-not only academically, but personally. Just as important as strong academics is expecting and promoting the qualities of “responsible, good people” in society who know how to treat one another with kindness and respect.

Children learn to be responsible for themselves and celebrate who they are without needing to see themselves as better than anyone else, not as competitors, but with each as an important part of the whole.

This Covid year, Tilden continued to welcome and nurture children from K through 5th grade, and it became Whitney’s retirement year. It was not an easy decision, because in her words, ” I LOVE it! And I will so miss the kids and teachers.” The stars aligned and it became the right time. One of the Tilden teachers, Sarah Shearer, was ready to take the lead, so the school will continue.

Some favorite teachers and staff will also be retiring this year: Elaine Connell, Jan Foster, Karin Beck, and Administrator Monica Riva. Tilden teachers are also what makes Tilden a special place. Drawn to a small school after working a decade or more in public schools, they all relished the opportunity to get to know each child. Whitney describes her teachers as: “dedicated, hardworking, calm, smart, able to balance leadership with kindness, having a sense of humor, and a sense of what is right.” And so much fun!

What is next for Whitney in retirement? She will still take a small part in Tilden School, meeting individually with each student for reading skills. She will continue with her small part of the former Lou Magor and Whitney music program. They were friends for almost 50 years–since he was her director in the San Francisco Symphony Chorus. She feels that she could never fill his shoes, but will do her part, admittedly with a heavy heart.

She won’t have to find new hobbies in retirement because now she will have time to revel in her varied interests and skills-gardening, music (chamber music on cello, barbershop singing, 2 choirs, fiddle lessons, ukulele with the kids, learning crumhorn and alto recorder) and she has two grandchildren who live nearby, which is just a joy!

If you experience a Whitney “celebrity sighting” as a current student or family, be sure to catch her eye, and as a Tilden alum or family, expect her\ to swoon in delight and ask for a life update!

Join us to celebrate the retirements:
Sunday, August 29 from 3-6 p.m.
Hiawatha Park
(2700 California SW)

Please help us spread the word to current families, past students and their own growing families, past parents.

16 Replies to "Tilden School founder Whitney Tjerandsen retiring; celebration next weekend"

  • Carolyn O'Leary August 21, 2021 (5:15 pm)

    So sorry to miss celebrating Whitney, Elaine, Jan and Karin and Monica, the world of education is losing a dynamic force with the retirement of this gang. You have all given so much and it’s sure to carry on  through generations of families. Thank you. 

  • Wendell August 21, 2021 (6:12 pm)

    Best wishes to you, Whitney. You are a gift to this community. 

  • Eric Pegasus August 21, 2021 (7:13 pm)

    Congrats, Whitney, we all appreciate you. Wishing you the best in your new endeavors.

  • Barb. Vadakin August 22, 2021 (12:43 am)

    A super star who served so many families with style and grace. Her life dedication to kids and families is rare in today’s world. I never worried when I referred a family to your school because I knew you would give them the very best for their child.  Whitney I send you my love and happiness as you venture into the next journey of your life.,

  • Chuck Joans August 22, 2021 (1:31 pm)

    Congratulations!  Enjoy your retirement Whitney.

  • Becky August 22, 2021 (7:16 pm)

    Thank you, WSB, for acknowledging the many years and full heart Whitney has given to our community!

  • Valerie August 22, 2021 (7:19 pm)

    The mere mention of Tilden School conjures up so many memories. Our 3 children are in their 30’s and got such a sound and nurturing education at Tilden. They were well prepared for middle school when they left. But, the teachers and staff are what made it so amazing. Led by Whitney, they were/are so special. It is astounding that 4 of the 5 retirees were there when our children were. So thankful. And Becky Huntley, your amazing article captures her personality and exuberance completely. Valerie and Michael O’Mara

  • Karen Barnard August 22, 2021 (7:31 pm)

    So happy to be celebrating these wonderful people!

  • Pat Sanford August 22, 2021 (8:27 pm)

    Thank you, Whitney (and all Tilden faculty and staff), for creating not just a wonderful school, but for creating years of memories our family will forever cherish. We’re really looking forward to the celebration at Hiawatha Park on Sunday, the 29th!

  • Rachel T August 23, 2021 (9:05 am)

    My life was changed forever in the most magical way by Whitney and her wonderful school! I can’t count all the amazing memories and how Tilden shaped my childhood :) Looking forward to Sunday!!! 

  • Lew Townsend August 23, 2021 (9:05 am)

    I am grateful that our daughter was able to begin her education in, what I consider to be, the best K-5 program that ever existed.

    Certainly, the curriculum was well taught. Teaching and educating our youth, on the importance and necessity of personal responsibility, iced the cake. Well done, all!

    Hoping Sarah Shearer can carry on!

    P.S. Biscuit, your only canine student, is unable to make a surprise visit. He will be there in spirit.

  • Nan Walton August 24, 2021 (8:37 pm)

    Brava to Whitney and her dedication to reading!  If a child can read, they can explore the whole world, and their minds are open to what is out there for them!  Brava to Whitney for her education of character for children, which is an important part of growth for any child, and sometimes missing in other schools.  I used to go to listen to the second graders read to me, and I loved to see the children’s stories and art on the walls.  At Tilden, children have been receiving a complete education and are proving to themselves how much they can do!  Thank you, Whitney!  Your hard work reaches for many, many miles as your students enter their adult lives and careers!  Your light continues to shine!

  • Sarah Shearer August 24, 2021 (9:07 pm)

    What a wonderful school Whitney has created, and indeed with like-minded (and incredible) teachers as partners! I am looking forward to celebrating with my colleagues and friends on Sunday. It has been a gift to share the Tilden magic with them for 13 years and is an honor to carry this very special torch from 2021 forward. 

  • Joyce Wipf August 29, 2021 (11:15 am)

    Dear Whitney,We will be forever grateful to you and the superb teachers and staff of Tilden for creating and fostering an exemplary elementary school education, including for our children, Alex and Mackenzie. Your team provided foundational and innovative learning in a fun, stimulating and safe educational environment.Our thoughts will be with you and everyone during the special celebration (will not be able to attend in person due to my/Joyce’s social isolation unless essential since inpatient care of COVID-19 patients).Thank you so much for your exceptional work and commitment.Congratulations and best wishes in your next adventures!Joyce & Greg, Alex and Mackenzie Wipf

  • Jennifer [Sproul] August 29, 2021 (3:01 pm)

    I wish I could make it, but I currently reside in Austin, TX! As one of the “original” kiddos back when Tilden first opened, I can say without a doubt that it is the BEST school with the BEST teachers! So thankful for all of the wonderful memories (and friends!) made while attending Tilden! Sending lots of love and gratitude! 

  • Patrick Wicklund September 7, 2021 (9:28 pm)

    Its hard to really understand what a great teacher Whitney is. Back in the 80s I was probably one of the first to attend. I wish I could have made it to this event for her. She is the best. Patrick Wicklund

Sorry, comment time is over.