Blake retirees 2022

Pictured (front row, l to r) Paul Menge, Anne VanderVorste, Martha Long, Deb Sanderson, Cynthia Hechter, (back row, l to r) William Watkins, Laura Larson, Jane Johnson, David Burton and Perry Andrews

With the close of the 2021-22 school year, 10 longtime Blake teachers celebrated their retirement. These educators represent a combined 264 years of service at Blake. Each retiree has contributed so much to the Blake community and their work will live on through the students, parents and colleagues they have taught, supported and inspired. The following are highlights from notes Blake community members shared with this year's faculty retirees.

Perry Andrews, Blake campus pre-kindergarten (29 years)

“Perry, you were what brought us to Blake. The magic you created stays with us today. Hammering nails into a frozen pumpkin, taking apart an ancient typewriter, colorful produce shopping at the Farmer’s Market followed by a soup feast for all—the time in your classroom was remarkable and set the stage for lifelong curiosity, exporting and, yes, learning. We are forever grateful and wish you the best in your next chapter.” —current family

“I had the privilege of working side-by-side with Perry Andrews for over 13 years in Pre-K. Perry is an early childhood educator extraordinaire! I watched with admiration as he warmly welcomed children and families, year after year, treating each of them with respect and care, creating an environment of trust. He got to know each child as an individual, supporting their growth through play. As his colleague, I learned so much from working with Perry: the value of humor, the joy of collaboration, the importance of celebration. He is a storyteller, a creative artist, a musician and a rare human being.” —former colleague 

“Mr. Andrews, you are synonymous with Blake! Your care and compassion for Pre-K kids over many years have been pivotal in beginning so many students' love of learning! We are so thankful that [our child] had you as a teacher. We wish you the best in your well-earned retirement!” —current family  

David Burton, Blake campus second grade (29 years)

“We toured Blake in 2008 and were led into Mr Burton's class. They were tracking migrating butterflies at the time. After spending maybe 10 minutes chatting with Mr. Burton and a student, we exited his classroom. My husband and I turned to each other and said, ‘This is the school.’ There was no question that our son had to attend based on our experience with David Burton. I'm equally grateful our child was able to have him as a teacher throughout second grade. Congratulations on your retirement!” —current parent ​​

“I had Mr. Burton as my second grade teacher my first year at Blake. He was the first teacher in my life who encouraged such rich and playful explorations of imagination while learning. His classroom felt safe, and he set a tone of wonder and kindness that has stuck with me for my whole life. He treated my classmates and me like we were adults and never talked down. It was empowering to just get to be me and feel so seen and understood by an adult. Some of my favorite memories from his class were our morning songs, which would later on help inform my taste in music (we didn't listen to ‘kids music’ we listened to iconic songs that were appropriate but still real person music), our monarch project, an immersive mock trial, and all of the creative writing projects we did. Somehow he flawlessly made every subject and project feel magical and set an example of kindness that removed any aspect of anxiety from the classroom experience (and I was a nervous little kid!) Mr. Burton helped me find my voice for the very first time, and I think of him with gratitude often! Wishing you endless play time in retired life, Mr. Burton!” —alumna, class of 2014 

“Thank you so much for all the help you gave me during my second grade year. I really appreciate all the subjects you taught. One of my favorite things when I was a second grader was doing the butterfly project. I remember watching the small caterpillars grow bigger, turning into cocoons, and finally into butterflies. I really hope you enjoy your retirement. Maybe we will see each other on the bike path!” —current student, class of 2030

Cynthia Hechter, Highcroft campus theater (28 years)

“Ms. Hechter, you've always been such a great teacher. I loved your class, and it really opened up a world of acting for me. Thank you for everything. Sending you well wishes!” —current student, class of 2025 

“Cynthia has a big, engaging and welcoming personality, and she seemed to have the energy, passion and creativity to bring theater arts alive for the kids. This culminated, of course, in the fourth grade and then fifth grade plays, with the fifth grade play being one of the most anticipated and most immersive experiences at the Lower School. It was a unique bonding experience for each Highcroft class year and something that must transform how the kids appreciate theater in their future lives. I saw many Highcroft students continue on to Middle School theater acting or backstage work, including our two sons and so many of our daughter's classmates. The correct reaction is, of course, bravo Ms. Hechter!” —current parent 

“I will always credit you with opening the kids' eyes to theater and their place in it. I've seen pride and excitement in their eyes when they were on stage in your productions. [My child] especially came out of her shell in the fifth grade play and has incredible memories of this time. So please always hold in your heart that you are in ours and our children's memories forever!” —current parent 

Jane Johnson, Highcroft campus learning specialist (33 years)

“Thank you for all of your assistance with [our child] when he was at Highcroft and struggling to learn to read. I remember talking to you in the hallway one morning when he was in kindergarten.  You told me not to worry that he wasn't reading chapter books yet, despite the peer pressure he felt, and went on to explain how a young brain works. Your calm spirit is a complete gift—both to parents and students. Thank you again for all of your assistance and enjoy your new chapter!” —former parent

“You have been instrumental in accessing, providing and advising us about our children’s learning differences. It isn’t always easy letting parents know that their child has a learning difference, nor is it easy to find the right fit learning model, but with both our children you were a patient, guiding light that helped us find the best path. You have always been so warm, passionate and patient during the process. We greatly thank you for your perseverance, compassion and wisdom during our reading/math journey.” —current parents

“Jane has been a kind, thoughtful and joyful presence at Blake. She has worked tirelessly to support students with learning differences and their families and has been an integral part of our learning support team, continuously pursuing the best strategies for supporting our learners. Jane can often be heard saying, ‘These children have such beautiful brains.’” —colleague 

Laura Larson, Highcroft campus third grade (21 years)

“The impact you had on [my child] and his academic career was profound. While he was always interested in school and a good student, during his year with you he really became a learner and became such a dedicated and curious student that he took off academically that year and never looked back. Thank you for all you did for him and the fire you lit in him. Best of luck in retirement.” —former parent  

“Your care, thoughtfulness, empathy and understanding for each one of your students is truly amazing. We had the benefit of both of our daughters having you as a teacher, and they positively grew as humans because of your guidance. Laura, you embody the meaning of a Blake teacher, and we wish you all of the best in your next phase. Thanks for all that you have done for the Blake community.” —current parent 

“Thank you for your years of dedication to our children and all the Highcroft third graders. We appreciate you! We wish you the best in your next chapter.” —current family

Martha Long, Blake campus fifth grade (24 years)

“Martha (Ms. Long to me) was my third grade teacher, and she continues to be the model to me on the impact a truly great teacher can have on a student's life. Even though it was nearly twenty years ago, I remember Martha being tremendously kind and compassionate, but more importantly, she helped me better understand how to be a more respectful and considerate person. Among the many great teachers I had during my Blake career, Ms. Long stands out among them as the most impactful on my growth as a person and student. I am so lucky to have had her as my teacher at such a formative time in my life, and I hope she has a relaxing and fulfilling retirement.” —alumnus, class of 2011  

“To this day I still tell people that Ms. Long was my favorite teacher. This isn’t only because she often baked us cookies, but because she was a role model and mentor to me. She connected with each and every one of her students and made the classroom a great place to be. She is such a great teacher and an even better person. I could still go and have a great conversation with her even 9 years later. Thank you for being such an impactful teacher, leader, and role model for me.” —alumna, class of 2021 

Ms. Long, you will forever be my favorite teacher! I still remember fourth and fifth grade with you and your delicious cookies! You have touched so many students and members of the Blake community; you will be so missed! Best of luck with your future endeavors.” —current student, class of 2023 

Paul Menge, Upper School assistant director (34 years)

“Mr. Menge, even though I was not the easiest student, you never gave up on me and always realized my potential. You helped inspire me to be a teacher, and I hope one day I can have a fraction of the impact on my students as you had on me. Your support and care means the world to me.” —alumna, class of 2007 

“Paul, even though it's been almost a decade since we worked together, I still find myself thinking often about the lesson you taught me and the other deans. You were a master teacher, and not just for the kids. It was you who said that kids—more than anyone—will remember the adults who push away their keyboard when they walk into their office and ask to talk. I use that piece of wisdom dozens of times a year, especially during those moments when I feel I have too little time and too much to do. You understood the enduring impact of making time for other people, and you always made time for me, for which I am still grateful and still remember, even now.” —former colleague 

“From being my soccer coach since eighth grade to my homeroom teacher throughout high school, you truly made my entire high school experience! You pushed me to be a better student, athlete, captain and most importantly a well-rounded, kind individual. I appreciate everything you've done and wish you the best in your next chapter!” —alumna, class of 2011 

Deb Sanderson, Blake campus teaching assistant (18 years)

“Deb was a terrific teaching assistant in my son's first year at Blake. She helped him adjust to Blake's classroom expectations and was always kind to him in the Extended Day program. I'm sure she helped hundreds (thousands?) of other students in the same way.” —current parent 

“Ms. Sanderson was so supportive of me and my family when I was in Lower School at Blake. I was the first one to Extended Day, and she was always there to bring me inside and hang out with me in the mornings. She is such a lovely person who was really impactful to me when I was younger. Thank you for everything you did for me and for the community!” —alumna, class of 2021 

Ms. Sanderson, you have been a steady presence at the Lower School throughout our time there, and we appreciate you nurturing all of our children during this time. Wishing you all the best in your retirement!” —current family

Anne VanderVorste, Blake campus kindergarten (31 years)

“Ms. VanderVorste was [my child’s] first teacher at Blake. We love how she stretched [students’] minds and hearts every day. She showed [my child] how to channel his energy and worked patiently with him and Jon Halpern to identify his learning differences (as he rolled across the floor while kids were standing to sing in French lessons). We are so grateful for her amazing impression on him. Thank you for everything!” —current parent 

“Anne, what great times the kiddos had in your kindergarten classroom! You helped lay the foundations for lifelong learning. We are grateful! Wishing you all the best!” —current family 

“Anne holds a deep belief in the goodness and capabilities of all children. She fosters an environment where children find joy in discovering new things, and she is quick to share in their excitement! Anne not only cares about the children, but she also cares about her colleagues, often sharing a kind word or writing a card to convey gratitude or share joy or grief. Anne has made significant contributions to the Lower School through her service in groups and committees, all while gently guiding children into believing in themselves as readers, writers, mathematicians and thinkers.” —colleague

William Watkins, Highcroft campus engineering and programming specialist (17 years)

“Dear Mr. Watkins, I am wishing you the absolute best in your retirement. I will always remember the unparalleled comfort, compassion and joy you offered me as a scared little third grader entering Blake for the first time. Computer class was easily the highlight of my Lower School career because you always made my day brighter at a time when I was struggling to adjust and make friends. As an adult beginning my own teaching career, I think of your impact often and strive to replicate the environment you created for me and my classmates. Blake was lucky to have you.” —alumna, class of 2015 

“Mr. Watkins, your passion for helping students understand and grow is unmatched. You have taken the time and care to understand how your students' brains work, and it did not go unnoticed. Our girls have benefited greatly from having you as a part of their learning environment, and we are so thankful for that. Your sensitivity and empathy toward our girls' learning styles has helped them grow in confidence and knowledge. Our world is better because of you, Mr. Watkins, and I wish you all of the best (including pink, purple and glitter unicorns) in your next phase.” —current parent 

“Thank you, William Watkins, for developing the amazing and original Highcroft E&P program, which was one of the things that initially stood out to us when we toured Blake. We appreciated your high-level vision and coaching for the kids, in life as well as E&P, and your personal connections with kids and families. They are amazed at your drawing skills (with both hands at once) and have fond memories of the Lego amusement park project and other E&P times. [My child] now intends to go into computer science, and all of the kids have continued building and creating all sorts of things at home. Thank you and best wishes!” —current parent