2020 Blake retirees kris westberg jackie robie diane landis brian olson patti landis

The following are highlights from notes Blake community members shared with this year's faculty retirees. 

Diane Landis, Upper School theater 

“Diane Landis and the drama program were a huge part of my Upper School experience at Blake. Ms. Landis came on board for my sophomore year. She was kind, patient and confidence-inspiring. She selected both serious and fun plays and musicals. Her program went above and beyond other drama programs I've heard about over the years, pushing us to adapt to unique and challenging environments (the black box theater was so cool and unique!) High school was a very challenging time for me, but I have many fond memories of the drama program with Ms. Landis.” —alumna, class of 2004 

“Diane Landis helped transform my son into a thespian. It was because of Diane's amazing courses, her leadership and her personality that he found himself connecting to the theater and the people involved. Diane has a way of making students feel like they can take a risk and still feel safe. Over the course of many years, Diane helped create a drama department that produced incredible plays and musicals. Students and parents felt lucky to work with her because she made it look so easy and it was so much fun. Thank you, Diane, for everything!” —current parent 

“Dear Diane, I still have all the secondary notes you would give us after each rehearsal — notes to move a bit right, a bit to the left, to speak a little higher or to move under the light. It was the sum of these notes that allowed me to become the person I am. I would be so nervous after each and every rehearsal to receive the notes, but they were always administered with a smile. They are the small tokens of a time I shared with you. Your mentorship healed me, you taught me a way to diffuse and classify memory. You taught me exploration, confrontation, how to illuminate myself. I am very grateful to you. I wish you the best on your next chapter.” —alumna, class of 2017 

“I just wanted to express my deep gratitude for inviting [my daughter] into the theater scene. She found it hard to settle at Blake as a new student coming from an eighth grade of five students to a ninth grade at Blake of 125 students. I was worried that she had little interest in the extracurriculars that provide a key opportunity in high school to make friends. But all that changed when she worked props for the fall play in ninth grade. The welcoming atmosphere and your willingness to allow her to take on more responsibility over the last two years has made a huge difference. A large part of feeling that she had a place at Blake was due to theater and, in particular, you. I cannot thank you enough for this. You are one of three key people at Blake that have enabled her to ‘belong.’ You are the best!”  —current parent

“I've had the good fortune of being at the Hopkins campus when Diane was hired to be the drama teacher. Her creativity, warmth and skills helped advance the department to its favored place that it holds today. Kids LOVE going to drama/theater class. It was amazing to watch Diane build on that love of make believe by having students take the subject seriously, working to advance their understanding and skills of theater. I have two profound memories of Diane. One was when she shaved her head in support of a friend who was losing her hair while undergoing treatment. That public gesture of friendship has always stayed with me. The other was during an evening performance of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ that she directed for the Upper School. Her daughter, Milanda, played the part of Beauty, and Diane introduced her to my granddaughter who was 4 years old at the time and still believed in princesses. I will never forget the look on her face when they met. Diane, thanks for all the great memories from the plays and for your friendship.” —colleague 

Patti Loftus, Highcroft campus pre-kindergarten

“I believe that Patti played a major role in developing the beloved and respected Highcroft Pre-K program. I don't think I've met a parent who hasn't loved the unique, creative, individualized, eye-opening Pre-K experience. We will miss Patti's sunny presence at Highcroft, as she guides and grows the little ones. It is a year we will never forget! —current parent 

“On our first trip to Blake, we watched as you interacted with our daughter, posing thoughtful and inquiring questions that inspired her to take a deeper look, think critically and learn more. As part of your Pre-K class, she discovered for the first time how exciting and interesting school can really be, and she looked forward to being in class every day. We are very grateful that your class was our introduction to the Blake learning community.” —current family

“Dear Ms. Loftus, you were incredibly nice to me as a child and helped foster a positive learning environment that I carried with me through the rest of my 14 years at Blake.” —alumnus, class of 2020

“I have learned more from Patti Loftus than from any other early childhood educator I have encountered. She develops loving, gentle relationships with children and families and shares generously with colleagues. I have witnessed her thoughtful presence with children who are happy, sad, angry and afraid, helping them get back to equilibrium and carry on with their important work of playing. She is a strong advocate for the needs of each child and does not compromise when it comes to their well-being, holding high standards for the best practices in the classroom and beyond. Her legacy is one of wisdom grown over time and shared widely.” —colleague 

“Hello Ms. Loftus! I was in your class at the Blake campus in 1997-98. My family has started growing an herb garden during quarantine, and I was just telling my mom this week that I remember the herb/vegetable garden we grew as a Pre-K class back then. I'm pretty sure you made some soup out of it.” —alumnus, class of 2011

Brian Olson, Upper School instrumental music

“[Mr. Olson] brought the joy of music to both [my sons], always encouraging and supportive while bringing out the best in both of them. He will be greatly missed by our family and we wish him well in retirement.” —current parent

“Dear Mr. Olson, Thank you for six great years in band. I was always so impressed by your patience with us, as well as the time you invested in making us better players by way of arranging certain pieces, staying after school for playing quizzes, etc. Have a nice retirement!” —alumnus, class of 2018  

“A huge thank you for your many years with the Blake arts department. Not only are you working with the music students and all of their performances, but with the theater department as well. I know [my son] really enjoyed being in the orchestra during his time at the Upper School.” —current parent

“Thank you so much, Mr. Olson, for everything you have done for the orchestra in general and for [my daughter] in particular. She loved her orchestra experience for the whole three years she had a chance to be a part of it, for the wonderful team spirit you created, for the musical challenges and fantastic concert results you made possible, and of course for the very special tours you made happen every spring. Thank you for making her feel valued and respected, and for the laughs and giggles we got to share when we tried to record one of her homework recordings, and the metronome seemed to be impossible to catch, and the 20th take was actually worse than the first. And you were the only teacher in her life she shed tears for, when she heard you were retiring. And again when she realized that there would be no proper send-off for you after all your years at Blake. These messages will have to do instead. From all our hearts, we wish you and your family a wonderful new chapter, with lots of health, love and, of course, music.” —current parent 

Jackie Robie, Highcroft campus fifth grade

“I loved every single minute in the classroom with Ms. Robie. She was always there for me and my classmates. Her warm heart always made me smile and her kindness was always overflowing. I remember when my dog passed away she comforted me, and I was able to ease my way back into the classroom. I remember when Ms. Robie encouraged me to build new friendships with my classmates that have continued growing to this day. Most importantly, Ms. Robie introduced me and my classmates to ‘Lord of the Rings,’ which changed my life forever. I will never forget watching the figurines appear in the classroom after a new character was introduced, the enticing conversations I had with my classmates after each chapter. I love the trilogy with a passion still to this day. Ms. Robie is the reason why fifth grade was my favorite year at Blake, and I am so grateful for every happy memory and smile she has given me.” —alumna, class of 2019 

“Ms. Robie was an amazing support to both [my sons] in their fifth grade years. What a delight it was that they both had the good fortune to have Ms. Robie. The understanding of their specific needs at the time and the way she addressed them with a balance of compassion, while promoting learning and growth will forever be an indelible mark on their journey both at Blake and through life. We wish you happiness and joy in retirement.” —current parent

“Dear Ms. Robie, thank you for being my fifth grade teacher. Every time I see ‘Lord of the Rings’ I think of you. Your creative and imaginative teaching sparked a love of epic storytelling.” —alumnus, class of 2020

“Dear Ms. Robie, We want to congratulate you on your retirement. Your fifth grade class was by far one of the most memorable in both of our 13 years at Blake. We can't believe you never got sick and tired of the Goo Goo Dolls or reading ‘Lord of the Rings,’ but even if you did we thought it was one of the coolest things ever and celebrated when we found out we were going to be in your class together. It is obvious we are not the only students who you have impacted during your time and we are grateful for the commitment you showed to teaching and to the students as well. It was clear you cared and it is highly appreciated. Wishing you all the best in your adventures to come!” —alumna and alumnus, class of 2014

“Mrs. Robie was the fifth grade teacher for both my kids, both of whom feel she is one of their favorite teachers. I am sincerely grateful for her warmth, kindness, patience and hard work. Mrs. Robie was a wonderful combination of setting high expectations, along with having a gentle, understanding way about her. She seemed to care about her students thriving in all dimensions of their lives, be it academically, socially, emotionally and in good health. All of this was truly gratifying to see as a parent, and from my kids’ perspective, I think it made school an all-around positive, fun place to be. They also loved making string beads during read-aloud, sometimes accompanied by a Jolly Rancher!” —current parent 

Kris Westberg, Highcroft campus fourth grade

“Thank you Kris, for taking my son under your wing and helping him become a budding writer. Thank you for teaching him to trust in himself and who he is. These are the two things that burst out of my mind when I think back to fourth grade. Widgi was as transformative as it could have been and the extra love you put in to making sure he was comfortable allowed him to relax and enjoy the experience in a way he could not have done without you and Mr. Halpern. We will miss you, Kris. May your journey take you where you need to be. Thank you for everything.”  —current parent

“Dear Ms. Westberg, you were such an amazing teacher in fourth grade and I had so much fun in your class! I loved playing games at snack time like Hide Lips and Four Corners, and I also liked getting to sit with all of the pillows and special chairs. Overall, you were just such a great teacher! I learned a lot in fourth grade, but not just school-related things. You were so kind, and I learned how to be a better, more kind person because of you. I hope that you have a wonderful retirement, and I want to let you know that I miss you here in middle school! You are still, to this day, one of my all-time favorite teachers, and I hope the fourth graders that you have taught since my class appreciate you just as much as I do.” —current student, class of 2025 

“My daughter loved her close relationship with Kris Westberg. I can't remember her exact words, but she said something about Ms. Westberg ’probably’ being the best-dressed teacher! Kris observed her closely and identified and communicated her strengths and areas for improvement very well. Kris was a caring, well-organized and insightful teacher.” —current parent

“Both [our] kids had Ms. Westberg, and boy was her love of and insistence on LOTS of reading the perfect fit for them. They always loved reading but became voracious readers after having her and that continues to this day — even with my son’s crazy course load as a sophomore. The kid still loves to read.” —current parents

“Kris Westberg will be missed. Not only was she a fabulous teacher, but she was a fantastic mentor and colleague! During my time of teaching fourth grade, we would meet for coffees or walks and she would share her lessons and organizational methods. Kris creates lessons that are thoughtful and fun for all students. She really tries to think like a fourth grader and she makes everything so engaging. She has taught me so much!” —colleague