Preschool Teacher Linda Reaser Retires

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By Rebecca Schmitz

Linda Reaser with her husband Al.
Linda Reaser with her husband Al.

Misty eyes, warm hugs, and fond memories were in abundance April 24 at the retirement party of beloved preschool teacher Linda Reaser. Held at Olivet Presbyterian Church, where Reaser sings in the choir and teaches Sunday school, the event celebrated her 35 years of devotion to Crozet’s preschool-age children. Praise was flowing as more than 200 parents, friends, and former students gathered to show Reaser how much she has meant to them and their families.

“Mrs. Reaser’s program is really special,” said Lorel Marshall, whose 3-year-old daughter is in Reaser’s class this year, and whose son attended last year. “She’s so loving and kind, and every moment with her is a real teaching moment. The kids think they’re just having fun, but they’re really learning, and that’s very deliberate. And although she’s super loving, she views the kids as very capable and competent individuals.”

Jenny Carter, who sent four of her six children to Reaser’s Happitime Preschool, agreed.  “She expects a lot from them, and kids know when you believe in them,” she said. Carter recounted how anxious she was when she first began searching for preschools, noting how hard it was to imagine leaving her children in someone else’s care. “But I always knew when I went in to Mrs. Reaser’s classroom they were in good hands,” she said. “She filled in all the gaps. She made me a better person. She taught us how to be good mothers by her own mothering. I knew that if I needed parenting advice, she would give it to me straight.”

Before opening Happitime, Reaser taught elementary school for eight years. After teaching for a year in West Virginia and a year at Broadus Wood Elementary, she taught at Greenwood Elementary School (which closed in 1984), leaving after her oldest daughter was born. Happitime Preschool grew out of a babysitting co-op she started with several friends, all of whom had children around the same age. When some of her friends began going back to work, they asked Reaser if she’d continue teaching their children, and Reaser agreed, having developed an interest in early childhood education and taking classes in the subject at the University of Virginia. “That was how I started an unofficial preschool with three-year-olds, and then the next year they continued as four-year-olds. The children came one day a week and they stayed through lunch and early afternoon.” Reaser said she enjoyed the idea of working part-time and in her own home, where she could go downstairs as late or as early as she wanted to catch up on work or prepare for the next day’s class.

The Happitime Preschool mascot made out of 200 cupcakes. (Photo courtesy Penny Wagner)
The Happitime Preschool mascot made out of 200 cupcakes. (Photo courtesy Penny Wagner)

By the time her daughter’s preschool class had moved on to kindergarten, word had spread, and others in the community began asking her to teach their children. She and her husband, Al Reaser, himself a retired educator, began searching for property to build a house that would have a basement designed to be a licensed preschool classroom. They found that property on Browns Gap Turnpike, began building, and Happitime Preschool was born.

One common refrain Reaser has heard from parents is what a good “feeling” they get when stepping into her school. The cozy basement walls are lined with toys, many from era in which the children’s parents grew up. No matter what time during the morning a visitor might stop by, the children are engaged and happily learning. Reaser and her teaching assistant, Carolyn Hughes, seem to have an almost magical way of keeping the children attentive and engaged. “I’ve never found it necessary to yell,” Reaser said in her calm, kind manner. “And I’ve always told parents they can go in and out of the classroom as much as you want to. I think that if you’re paying for something, you ought to be able to come in when you want to and see what’s going on.”

When she taught elementary school, Reaser was particularly drawn to the hands-on teaching style, and was eager to put it into practice in a younger age group. “The hands-on developmental approach means that children get to experience things as they are learning. For example, when I’m teaching the alphabet sequentially throughout the year, at the same time they’re having experiences with each letter… so you’re able to teach science and music and nursery rhymes as you go through the alphabet. I found it to be a very effective way of teaching preschoolers and letting them experience something new every day.”

Reaser has had only four teaching assistants in 35 years, and the low turnover rate is a testament to how much her assistants enjoyed working with her. Hughes has been Reaser’s teaching assistant for the past 13 years, and her three sons all attended Happitime. She marvels at how carefully Reaser planned her lessons each day. Hughes said if someone was going to be absent on an important day, such as when they did their spring planting, Reaser would rearrange her lessons to make sure the student got to participate another day. “She had plans A, B, C, and D, and we never knew until the last minute which one we were going to do. I don’t know too many teachers who do that.” Hughes added that, “She has two sayings that really stuck with me. The big one is ‘This too shall pass.’” She explains Reaser would often use it to reassure parents whose children were struggling through a tough stage of childhood or having trouble grasping a skill.  “The other huge one she always talked about is how even as your sons and daughters grow up, they still need you.  They might look grown up, but you get constant reminders that they are not.”

A big part of her job is reassuring parents seeking guidance as their children navigate their preschool years. Reaser’s vast knowledge of child development has eased the minds of many a parent. “The people who were saying [at the retirement party] that you could ask me a question and I could give you an answer—that means a lot to me because I’ve tried hard to know what I’m doing,” she says.  “I’ve always encouraged parents that the most important thing you can do is read a book with a child and let them comment. Or, you ask them questions, so they learn to think as they follow a story. Individual caring is so important in those years. You will never have that time back.”

Reaser’s love of teaching clearly runs in the family. Her daughter Lori has been an English and journalism teacher at Albemarle High School for 16 years, and Reaser says she’s always thrilled when the girls in her Girl Scout troop tell her how much they loved having her daughter as a teacher.  Reaser’s other daughter, Julie, lives in southern Virginia, where her mother says she is a “farm girl” and enjoys raising horses, chickens, and cows, as well as teaching environmental studies courses online. Before getting her master’s in environmental science, Julie taught high school chemistry for 6 years.

At her retirement party, Reaser was constantly bombarded with hugs from current and former students, all of which she accepted with joy.  Stewart Schill, a student of Mrs. Reaser’s from 2004, read a lovely, heartfelt poem he wrote in her honor to the gathered crowd.  Michelle Sacre, whose mother had been in Mrs. Reaser’s fourth grade class at Greenwood, was one of the girls Reaser guided through Girl Scouts.  Now a mother herself, Sacre stood up to speak about the tremendous effect Reaser had upon her life:  “You’ve been my Girl Scout leader, my teacher, my mentor, and my friend. You’ve given so much to the community.” Reaser’s best friend, B.J. Gay, spoke about their decades –long friendship; and Olivet’s pastor, Albert Connette, reflected upon her contributions to the church and to the community at large.

Reaser has at times been nicknamed “the Energizer Bunny” because of the seemingly limitless amount of energy contained in her diminutive frame. In addition to serving as both a Girl Scout troop leader and assistant leader, she has worked at Sugar Hollow Girl Scout Camp for 32 years.   She says she’s not worried about being bored after retirement: “I’m sure things will keep popping up. I just feel like there will be things, and things, and things, and that’s the way it will go. We’ll just see. I’m not closed for anything!

“Preschoolers are my favorite age. They are full of joy and they love to learn anything new. How can you be around a group of preschoolers and not feel joyful?”

No doubt, all the children who’ve been lucky enough to attend Happitime Preschool feel the same way about being around her.

by Rebecca Schmitz

[email protected]

Misty eyes, warm hugs, and fond memories were in abundance April 24 at the retirement party of beloved preschool teacher Linda Reaser. Held at Olivet Presbyterian Church, where Reaser sings in the choir and teaches Sunday school, the event celebrated her 35 years of devotion to Crozet’s preschool-age children. Praise was flowing as more than 200 parents, friends, and former students gathered to show Reaser how much she has meant to them and their families.

“Mrs. Reaser’s program is really special,” said Lorel Marshall, whose 3-year-old daughter is in Reaser’s class this year, and whose son attended last year. “She’s so loving and kind, and every moment with her is a real teaching moment. The kids think they’re just having fun, but they’re really learning, and that’s very deliberate. And although she’s super loving, she views the kids as very capable and competent individuals.”

Jenny Carter, who sent four of her six children to Reaser’s Happitime Preschool, agreed.  “She expects a lot from them, and kids know when you believe in them,” she said. Carter recounted how anxious she was when she first began searching for preschools, noting how hard it was to imagine leaving her children in someone else’s care. “But I always knew when I went in to Mrs. Reaser’s classroom they were in good hands,” she said. “She filled in all the gaps. She made me a better person. She taught us how to be good mothers by her own mothering. I knew that if I needed parenting advice, she would give it to me straight.”

Before opening Happitime, Reaser taught elementary school for eight years. After teaching for a year in West Virginia and a year at Broadus Wood Elementary, she taught at Greenwood Elementary School (which closed in 1984), leaving after her oldest daughter was born. Happitime Preschool grew out of a babysitting co-op she started with several friends, all of whom had children around the same age. When some of her friends began going back to work, they asked Reaser if she’d continue teaching their children, and Reaser agreed, having developed an interest in early childhood education and taking classes in the subject at the University of Virginia. “That was how I started an unofficial preschool with three-year-olds, and then the next year they continued as four-year-olds. The children came one day a week and they stayed through lunch and early afternoon.” Reaser said she enjoyed the idea of working part-time and in her own home, where she could go downstairs as late or as early as she wanted to catch up on work or prepare for the next day’s class.

By the time her daughter’s preschool class had moved on to kindergarten, word had spread, and others in the community began asking her to teach their children. She and her husband, Al Reaser, himself a retired educator, began searching for property to build a house that would have a basement designed to be a licensed preschool classroom. They found that property on Browns Gap Turnpike, began building, and Happitime Preschool was born.

One common refrain Reaser has heard from parents is what a good “feeling” they get when stepping into her school. The cozy basement walls are lined with toys, many from era in which the children’s parents grew up. No matter what time during the morning a visitor might stop by, the children are engaged and happily learning. Reaser and her teaching assistant, Carolyn Hughes, seem to have an almost magical way of keeping the children attentive and engaged. “I’ve never found it necessary to yell,” Reaser said in her calm, kind manner. “And I’ve always told parents they can go in and out of the classroom as much as you want to. I think that if you’re paying for something, you ought to be able to come in when you want to and see what’s going on.”

When she taught elementary school, Reaser was particularly drawn to the hands-on teaching style, and was eager to put it into practice in a younger age group. “The hands-on developmental approach means that children get to experience things as they are learning. For example, when I’m teaching the alphabet sequentially throughout the year, at the same time they’re having experiences with each letter… so you’re able to teach science and music and nursery rhymes as you go through the alphabet. I found it to be a very effective way of teaching preschoolers and letting them experience something new every day.”

Reaser has had only four teaching assistants in 35 years, and the low turnover rate is a testament to how much her assistants enjoyed working with her. Hughes has been Reaser’s teaching assistant for the past 13 years, and her three sons all attended Happitime. She marvels at how carefully Reaser planned her lessons each day. Hughes said if someone was going to be absent on an important day, such as when they did their spring planting, Reaser would rearrange her lessons to make sure the student got to participate another day. “She had plans A, B, C, and D, and we never knew until the last minute which one we were going to do. I don’t know too many teachers who do that.” Hughes added that, “She has two sayings that really stuck with me. The big one is ‘This too shall pass.’” She explains Reaser would often use it to reassure parents whose children were struggling through a tough stage of childhood or having trouble grasping a skill.  “The other huge one she always talked about is how even as your sons and daughters grow up, they still need you.  They might look grown up, but you get constant reminders that they are not.”

A big part of her job is reassuring parents seeking guidance as their children navigate their preschool years. Reaser’s vast knowledge of child development has eased the minds of many a parent. “The people who were saying [at the retirement party] that you could ask me a question and I could give you an answer—that means a lot to me because I’ve tried hard to know what I’m doing,” she says.  “I’ve always encouraged parents that the most important thing you can do is read a book with a child and let them comment. Or, you ask them questions, so they learn to think as they follow a story. Individual caring is so important in those years. You will never have that time back.”

Reaser’s love of teaching clearly runs in the family. Her daughter Lori has been an English and journalism teacher at Albemarle High School for 16 years, and Reaser says she’s always thrilled when the girls in her Girl Scout troop tell her how much they loved having her daughter as a teacher.  Reaser’s other daughter, Julie, lives in southern Virginia, where her mother says she is a “farm girl” and enjoys raising horses, chickens, and cows, as well as teaching environmental studies courses online. Before getting her master’s in environmental science, Julie taught high school chemistry for 6 years.

At her retirement party, Reaser was constantly bombarded with hugs from current and former students, all of which she accepted with joy.  Stewart Schill, a student of Mrs. Reaser’s from 2004, read a lovely, heartfelt poem he wrote in her honor to the gathered crowd.  Michelle Sacre, whose mother had been in Mrs. Reaser’s fourth grade class at Greenwood, was one of the girls Reaser guided through Girl Scouts.  Now a mother herself, Sacre stood up to speak about the tremendous effect Reaser had upon her life:  “You’ve been my Girl Scout leader, my teacher, my mentor, and my friend. You’ve given so much to the community.” Reaser’s best friend, B.J. Gay, spoke about their decades –long friendship; and Olivet’s pastor, Albert Connette, reflected upon her contributions to the church and to the community at large.

Reaser has at times been nicknamed “the Energizer Bunny” because of the seemingly limitless amount of energy contained in her diminutive frame. In addition to serving as both a Girl Scout troop leader and assistant leader, she has worked at Sugar Hollow Girl Scout Camp for 32 years.   She says she’s not worried about being bored after retirement: “I’m sure things will keep popping up. I just feel like there will be things, and things, and things, and that’s the way it will go. We’ll just see. I’m not closed for anything!

“Preschoolers are my favorite age. They are full of joy and they love to learn anything new. How can you be around a group of preschoolers and not feel joyful?”

No doubt, all the children who’ve been lucky enough to attend Happitime Preschool feel the same way about being around her.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Yes Mrs Reaser is the best She taught my daughter in 1st grade Sharon Shifflett and all of my four grandchildren Adam Shifflett Kyle Shifflett Alexis Shifflett and now Amaya Simms She is the greatest in my book and I love her and will miss seeing her But Mrs Reaser I hope you enjoy your retirement My whole family
    Loves you so much!!!

  2. I taught with Linda at Greenwood Elementary my first year of teaching. She was a wonderful teacher then. My daughter, who is now 35, attended two years of preschool at Happitime Preschool. Sarah was so prepared for kindergarten! She loved Mrs. Reaser!
    I also had the privilege of working with Al at WAHS! One of the best!
    Thank you to all the Reasers and congratulations to Linda! Enjoy your retirement. You will be missed!!

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