The Light In Her Wake
An artistic sendoff for Mary Kay Deen, a beloved teacher who made creative "Bellringers" of us all.
- by Molly Fitzpatrick, Mary Kay Deen, Kat Fitzpatrick and Ellis Anderson,
photos and video by Ellis Anderson
"If we remember that we teach individuals, each with his or her own “bell,” we will cease to honor schooling that stands between the child and that child’s potential. We will chisel away anything that discourages thinking. We will insist that learning occurs when children have choices, when they are taught to assess their own work, when they build community with others, and when they stretch themselves, believing they can do the impossible."
Kat Fitzpatrick, artist and educator, watched her own daughter Molly began to beam with Mary Kay’s guidance.
“She invited them [her students] into her enthusiasm, so they caught fire. It was her special gift. She would hand the baton to them and make them experts and authorities."
"She could see the children and recognize something in them that she admired. And then she’d turn it, so the child could see herself with Mary Kay’s eyes. So many things are invisible to us until someone shares that way of being."
It’s been more than 20 years since Kat's daughter Molly Fitzpatrick Martin sat in Mary Kay’s class, yet those early lessons have helped shape her life. And now, Molly also believes that her teacher understood the light she carried and the gifts of love it could impart:
Mary Kay Deen was the first person (other than my mother, who I believed was legally obligated to make me feel special) to tell me I was an artist. Even in a wounded, smart ass little kid, she saw it.
She never condescended, never patted my head -- she believed I had something important to communicate, and eventually I started to believe it too. Other students of hers have echoed that sentiment over the years.
She took the time to find what was innate and powerful about each of her students, hold it up to the light, and patiently reveal it to them.
Before her memorial service, I thought this was something that just flowed out of her, something beautiful and saintly that maybe she didn't even realize about herself. But upon hearing the excerpts from the teaching book she contributed to, I saw that it was, in fact, a time-honored commitment - something she had made her life's mission and worked hard for every single day.
I felt so intensely grateful and proud of her in that moment, because I realized that at the end of her life, she had achieved everything she set out to do. She loved easily and joyfully, without compromise, and the effects of that are visibly imprinted on our community. I will hold her in my heart always.
Thank you, Mary Kay, for making Bellringers of all who knew you.