As we continue our 35th anniversary series highlighting the alumni of Imago, the opportunity to also feature one of the School's most notable teachers could not be missed. It is with great joy that we present the lovely history of Bev Aronson, Imago's esteemed first teacher!
When I got to the end of what I wanted to relate in this brief “history”, I went back to the beginning for a read through to see if there were any glaring errors. I did find some, but mostly what I could see is how the omniscient, sovereign Lord “groomed” me over the years so I would be ready to begin with Imago at just the appointed time. Amazingly awesome!
When I entered first grade back in the dark ages of 1946 (age 5, definitely not recommended) I fell in love with my teacher, Miss Morey, and I said to my friend one day at recess, “When I grow up I want to be a first grade teacher.” So, when I was a senior in high school, I knew that the right thing to do was to apply to what was, back then, the BEST teacher college in the country, known then as Framingham State Teacher’s College, an “all girls” college at that time and dedicated exclusively to training teachers for elementary school. Superintendents as far away as California would come to interview senior students to teach in their schools. I ended up accepting a position offered to me to teach FIRST grade in the Medfield Public Schools here in Massachusetts; the principal told me that the main reason they asked me to come teach in Medfield was because, during the interview, I said, “I wouldn’t consider teaching anything else but FIRST grade!”, and, according to the principal, it was very rare to have someone say that.
I spent 5 years teaching in Medfield, and it was a great opportunity to hone my teaching skills because the principal, dear Mrs. Washburn, really understood young children and what they needed. She ran a “tight” ship with a loving approach, and she paired all new first year teachers with an experienced teacher so we “newbies” could be encouraged and mentored throughout that first year. There were six first grades in the school so there was lots of interaction and helpful cooperation amongst the teachers.
During the summers of my time in the Medfield Public Schools I worked at a Christian camp for inner city kids, Camp Chilaven. There were Haven clubs in several key areas of Boston, and the kids could earn a free week at camp by memorizing Bible verses. It was at this camp that I made lifelong friends and was challenged about the possibility of missionary work -- in what capacity, where, or for how long I did not know, but I did know that I would need some training, so during my fifth year in Medfield I applied to Moody Bible Institute for a one year course as a “special student”.
It was at Moody, during a missionary conference, that I learned of the need for teachers on the mission field, and one of the missionaries told me of a school in the Philippines called Faith Academy, a school (grades K-12) for the children of missionaries working in the far eastern countries. I applied in April of that year of study and heard back that they needed a FIRST grade teacher for two years beginning that July. If I wanted to accept the position I needed to be affiliated with a mission, so I applied to the same mission of the missionary who told me about Faith Academy. (The application was like a final exam in theology so I was thankful for the training I had received at Moody.) I was accepted by the mission and at Faith Academy. This was mid-May by that time, and I had to be in the Philippines at the school in July (different school schedule from ours). Marvelously the Lord worked out every detail: passport; visa; support money; travel arrangements! My time at Faith Academy extended from two years to four – more life-long friends, wonderful experiences, and lots of memories (including earthquakes and typhoons, and the Central Luzon Floods).
When I returned to the States, I sent out many applications to various towns searching for a teaching position, but with no success because there were so many applicants for any available opening, unlike when I graduated from college and towns everywhere were crying for teachers; so I ventured into the business world. I missed my teaching, but I loved walking out the door at the end of each work day without a bag of more work to do at home.
Several years went by (years of missing teaching, in spite of all the work involved) when, one evening in late July of 1981, a friend telephoned to tell me that a new Christian school was going to open in Acton come September and that I should go to an open house they were having later that week to learn more.
What do you think of when you hear the words “Open House”? -- My thoughts exactly, but that was not the case. Upon arrival at the lovely school building in a wooded area, I was directed by the custodian to walk down a windowed hallway and up a few steps to the next level. There I found three empty rooms with boxes shoved in the corner of one of the rooms and three people standing in the middle of the room engaged in conversation. I was sure I was in the wrong place! I said, “Excuse me, I am trying to find the Open House for the Imago School.” They assured me I was in the right place. Right place? I wasn’t sure at all! One of the women broke off from the group of three and greeted me (my first conversation with Linny Dey). After listening to her talk about the vision for Imago and seeing the sparkle in her eyes, I moved from wondering if I were in the right place to knowing that I was, especially when the conversation involved C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, L’Abri, and their association with Francis Schaeffer! Before I left that afternoon I asked for an application and filled it out as soon as I got home. (By the way, they had me study for two weeks at Southborough L’Abri one summer in our beginning days so I could get the “flavor”. I loved it!)
At my interview, three chairs (for Miss Dey, Miss Ward, and me) had been added to the middle of the room previously described. It was unusual as interviews go because we just chatted – about my life, their background, and more about their vision for the school -- and about my teaching experience to that point and what I thought it meant to be a Christian and how that could that be involved in education. Then they asked me if I thought I could handle teaching three grades in the same classroom. I answered that it would mean a lot of lesson plans, but it could be done; I told them about having a class of 30 first-graders in the Philippines with such a wide spread of abilities in that class that I divided them into 5 groups and just moved from group to group teaching while keeping all the groups constructively occupied, so I thought I could handle 3 grades. Perhaps that answer is why they hired me, I don’t know, but I ended up with grades 1-3 and two children in each grade. Miss Dey taught grades 4-6, and, according to Robby White, one of my first-graders, “Miss Ward swept the floor.” (The only time he saw her was at lunch – we all ate together back then. Oh, by the way, you might still catch Miss Ward sweeping the floors amongst other things around the edges – she has a servant’s heart!)
From mid-August, when I applied to Imago, there wasn’t much time to get those three empty rooms ready to begin school right after Labor Day. Miss Dey and I went dumpster-diving outside the building where the three rooms were, knowing that the town had just closed that school in June. We found lots of perfectly good books to use in our classrooms. (Imago’s history curriculum is based on many of the books we got out of that dumpster.) Another school in the town had bought new desks and chairs for some of their classrooms, and we were able to get their cast-off, but perfectly good furniture, for our classrooms. Since they were going to throw them away, we took way more than we needed (thinking of growth for Imago). Most of that furniture is still in use today.
That first year we started all ready, right after Labor Day, with 13 children; I got another first-grader in October, so 7 for me and 7 for Miss Dey. Those were happy, busy days of feeling our way along. Miss Dey and I were very involved with our various grade levels, and Miss Ward more with the organizational details along with teaching a science class and gym. She had a bit more time to “hover” over my doings, but following an after school chat one day early on in that first year, I convinced her that I knew what I was doing, and she left me ever after that to “do my thing”. It was so freeing to be trusted like that!
There were lots of field trips that year (everybody piled into two cars before the days of belting and state regulations) – trips into Boston to the museums, also to Worcester for exploring the Higgins Armory, and many afternoon walks around Walden Pond. It was also the year of FIRSTS: the first Orientation Night; the first Reformation Play; the first Thanksgiving Feast; the first Lessons and Carols; and the first Beach Day (at the ocean). There wasn’t a first Graduation until two years later when Karen Beers Augusta was our first graduate.
After a few years, Acton reclaimed their building, so we moved to another town-abandoned school building in Littleton. What a lot of work getting that building ready! After a few years, Littleton reclaimed that building for their library and town offices, and Imago moved to Maynard and its current location in a former parochial school building. I think it was when we moved to Maynard that I finally got to teach just one grade entirely of darling first-graders. That was it each year (except for becoming the primary grades supervisor and writing curriculum) until my retirement in June of 2007. But, as it turned out, I only partially retired because Miss Ward called a month later and asked if I would teach part time, which I did in various capacities until 2014 when recuperating from brain surgery took very much longer than I expected, resulting in a whole school year missed. Thankfully, I am able this school year to help around the edges each Friday morning. It keeps me young at heart working with my Imago “darlings”!
The Imago School is a very special school, and it has been a blessing from God to be a part of its educating so many “darlings” over these past 34+ years! I love you all so much! … And, I so appreciate the dear friends I have made at Imago over these years, friends who are more like family!
P.S. – I couldn’t resist! --
“Remember, remember the 5th of November!” (Guy Fawkes and me …)
This year it’s #74.