Community service brings honor to retired teacher
Southborough - Like the quilts she taught students to make, Anne "Annie" Leavitt's career at the Fay School pieced together her practicality, wisdom, education and respect for students and the school. Also like the quilts, her career is capped with something memorable, even beautiful: the Annie Leavitt Fund for Community Service.
A science teacher at Fay School for more than 30 years until she retired in 2002, Leavitt also headed the Science Department. Because a tenet of the school is community service, Leavitt decided to take one period used for hobbies to teach interested students to make crib quilts for AIDS babies (ABC Quilts). For the first session, her own advisees signed up, and they completed six quilts, she said.
"From there it just mushroomed. We had to use two classrooms. It got to be a sewing circle in the best sense of the word. The kids were secure, they knew what they were doing after a while," Leavitt said. "I know we made over 300 (quilts). We made an average of 30 a year once the project got going."
Students learned to sew, with more experienced students helping new quilters, Leavitt said. She displayed each batch of quilts for the whole school to see before they were sent to hospitals.
While this project, still going at the school, was only a part of her career, it made an impression on Howard and Carol Stoner, whose daughter was one of Leavitt's quilters.
"I think she did such an extraordinary service for so many years," Carol said. "I just wanted to recognize that – her generous heart, her generous spirit. I just wanted to recognize her on behalf of the families who benefited from the quilts."
The Stoners have created an endowed fund to honor Leavitt and to ensure that community service at Fay has money to pay for projects, Carol said.
"My daughter was at Fay and she had made quilts for these AIDS babies at Fay and I think it was just such a wonderful outreach to do that. Not only that, but they don't teach home [economics] anymore, so these kids learn to sew," Carol said. "It's wonderful on so many levels for the kids."
Leavitt remembe red that Carol supported the ABC Quilts project.
"The Stoners were beh ind this project from the beginning and [Carol] would come in with a big stack of fabric in the fall to get started," Leavitt said. "She kind of 'fair y-godmothered' the project."
Gay Larson, Fay School director of development, said the fund will help the school in its commitment to community service.
"We try to instill in our kids the awareness of others, particularly those who are less fortunate," she said. "[Annie]'s just a treasured member of the community even in retirement and somebody we still talk about for her commitment to community service and the kids and the values of the school."
The quilting project was an off shoot of Leavitt's practical approach to teaching.
"I was not a very traditional teacher. Much of the class was mental gymnastics," she said. "[Students] learn by thinking. When we got to the quilts, there were certain rules of logic that if you followed, you would succeed."
In teaching eighth-graders, Leavitt said, she tried to show the students how much they already know and to challenge them.
"They already knew more when they hit my classroom than Isaac Newton ever knew," she said. "They know it but they don't know it. They absorb it like sponges. They have to see why it applies … If you can make it relevant to stuff that they know, stuff they are interested in, they learn it. They don't even have to try."
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