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.