Dear BFS Community,
Since the opening of the Preschool on the second floor of Pearl Street in 1985, Brooklyn Friends School has had a strong belief in and commitment to early childhood education. Leading our meaningful program for two-year-old children since its founding, and designing every element of it, has been our illustrious Director of the Family Center, Sara Soll. Thus, it is with bittersweet joy and tremendous love that I ask you to join me in celebrating Sara, who after 35 years impacting generations of children, families, and colleagues, has made the decision to retire from Brooklyn Friends School at the end of the 2021-2022 school year.
In 1986, already a parent of two BFS students, Sara’s journey as a member of the BFS colleague body began with her role as one of the earliest members of the Preschool teaching team, where she immediately stood out as an extraordinary early childhood educator. Since then, as teacher, and subsequently Director of the Family Center for the past decade, Sara has guided hundreds of children on how to be a friend and a compassionate member of a community, launching each one of them on a lifelong journey of learning through play.
As I have personally shared with her, Sara will always be a beloved member of our Brooklyn Friends family, and the way that she has led with boundless expertise and her full heart and soul will continue to influence how we care for the learning and growing experiences of our youngest students for generations to come. We joyously look forward to collectively celebrating Sara throughout this school year to honor her undeniable legacy.
Before occupying its current home at 189 Schermerhorn Street beginning in 2011, the Family Center was founded in 1991 as a full-day program for two-year-olds. From its inception, The Family Center has been more than “childcare”—it has been and is a strong and compelling early childhood program that reinforces our commitment to educating the “whole child” at the earliest possible age. With Sara’s full support of this as a worthy and important evolution of the Family Center experience, I share an exciting development. Beginning in the 2022-2023 school year, the Family Center will come full circle, and our youngest students will return to Pearl Street where the program once began, officially denoting our Preschool program for two year old students as the official entry point to Brooklyn Friends School. The planned “inaugural” class will have a dozen students. This step boldly recognizes that early childhood education is a foundational starting point for the arc of our 2-year-old through 12th grade Quaker school, giving students the opportunity to exponentially grow in their identities as strong learners and kind and justice-minded human beings in our world.
The Family Center has held an important place in the history of Brooklyn Friends, and I recognize that change often brings with it varied emotions. As such, I encourage us all to remember that this is a physical movement. The program, teaching colleagues, and soul of the Family Center will continue to be with us and thrive.
At this moment, I humbly request that you join me in honoring the validly bittersweet happiness of this occasion, as we focus on centering both our beloved Sara, our Family Center colleagues, and our youngest students and families in the time ahead. In the weeks and months ahead, we will be sharing many opportunities on how you can show your appreciation and care for the way Sara has shined the light on our community. Below, please read a personal letter from Sara.
With deep appreciation, and in partnership,
I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have known at a very early age that I wanted to be an Early Childhood educator, although in those days it was most commonly called a Nursery School teacher. Forty-eight years later, I am happy to confirm I was right!
In 1986 I joined Brooklyn Friends to teach 3-year-olds in the second year of the Preschool. Our daughter was in the first class and had moved on to Kindergarten to join her brother in the Lower School. After being a parent for four years and teaching for twelve years in other settings, I had truly found my home. I already knew that the core values aligned with who I was as a parent and the educational environment we wanted for our children. There have been many changes over my years here in the school and in my positions. But in my experience, despite the ups and downs, those core values stayed true and have allowed me to grow, stretch, and try things I never thought I would do.
Being a teacher, supporting young children as they step out into the world and begin to learn about themselves in a new context is a joy. Watching their growth and development as they embrace their classroom community is always exciting. Each child, family, and class are unique and keep us growing and learning. I know how special it is to wake up every morning and look forward to the day ahead with the children.
Educators deal with many different transitions every year. Although I know this will be a new and very different transition, it is the right time for me. A wise friend told me I would know when it was time to retire, and I do. Time to be an in-person Grandma and be able to spend more time with my California family and my Brooklyn family.
Time for me to pause as I consider what will be next.
Joni Mitchell wrote one of my favorite songs that beautifully speaks to the passing of time. The chorus speaks to me now:
And the seasons, they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return, we can only look
Behind, from where we came
And go round and round and round, in the circle game
A new season, a new circle is ahead for me. Every child, parent, family, and colleague I have been fortunate to know and work with through the years is a part of who I am and my circles. I will carry all of you with me wherever I go and whatever I do. I imagine September will feel very different as that has been the start of a new year for so long and I can’t imagine completely disconnecting from BFS or from the world of young children. I am proud to have been part of the formation and growth of the Brooklyn Friends Preschool. I am especially proud of the school’s continued dedication to the education of children as young as 2 years old. I cherish my many memories as I look back. And I am excited to see what is ahead for me as a new circle begins.