Celebrating Teacher Sally: Retiring after 20+ years

Celebrating Teacher Sally: Retiring after 20+ years
By ana-maria

Sally Watkins is known for her fun attitude

by Cat Hoekman

Long-time Phinney Neighborhood Preschool Co-op teacher Sally Watkins is retiring after more than twenty years with PNA. This is the end of an era for the preschool, and for myself as well.

Sally and I came to the preschool at the same time back in 1999 –I as a parent and Sally as a teacher for the Two’s class. She was my first introduction to what a great preschool teacher could look like. I was there with my first child, and Teacher Sally was such an inspiration to me, with her warmth and child-centered approach and her ability to connect with each child in the class on an individual personal basis.

From 1999 to the present, Sally has taught an astounding twenty years of classes.

During her tenure at the preschool, she has taught the Two’s class, started a mixed-age class (in the evening, that’s dedication!), led a Toddler class, and of course finished with 10 years as our beloved Pre-K teacher. I know so many kids who would eagerly say that she’s the best teacher they’ve ever had, both my own, as well as the hundreds of others that she has taught through the years. Once, when I worked at Whittier Kids, one of my students found out that I knew teacher Sally and he shared with me just that sentiment.

Little-known fact: Sally grew up in South Korea, as her father was a missionary stationed there. This may be part of the reason for her love of travel and other cultures, which she always tried to bring into the classroom to share with the children. She is fearless and always up for something new–in fact, she took up the sport of surfing later in life! It’s definitely an “only Sally” moment when she brings in her surfboard so the kids can get the thrill of imagining themselves out on the waves.

Throughout her career Sally’s dedication and love for “her” kids have always shone through both in and out of work:  Once when she was passing by on Greenwood and discovered it was my son’s 2nd birthday, she stopped and whipped out her autoharp and sang “Happy Birthday” right then and there (and this year when he turned 18, she sang to him over the phone).

Sally had intended to retire last year, but because of the pandemic, decided to stay on one more year to provide continuity for the pre-school, another example of Teacher Sally’s commitment to the PNPC community.

Finally, a few words from other long-time co-workers of Sally’s:

Oh, I am going to miss Sally! One of my favorite things about working with Sally is knowing – witnessing – how much she loves and respects children and childhood. Sally sees the very best in children. She uses the strength of gentle kindness, her sensitive knowing, and deep experience to see what every child needs to grow independently, socially, and in spirit to be fully prepared for kindergarten and beyond. To have had Sally as a teacher is to have been fully seen, considered, and loved.

– Wyly Astley

I had the privilege of working with Sally for many years at PNPC.  Sally’s bright smile, thoughtfulness, and positivity made her joy to work with. She embraced each family’s unique strengths and encouraged caregiver collaboration in the classroom, creating a warm and supportive community for the children.  A highlight each year was when Sally would share her love of the ocean and surfing with the children, bringing in her surfboard and setting up an ocean scene in the classroom. Thank you for all the joy you brought to the PreK class and PNPC Sally! 

– Gwen Drolet