After more than 35 years of reading, painting, drawing, digging, swinging and teaching thousands of Lawrence children, Early Childhood Education Director Linda Reimond will sing her final goodbye songs to Lawrence Arts Center preschool and kindergarten students July 31.
A celebration of Reimond’s career is planned for Aug. 14. More information will be shared as details are finalized. Associate Director of Early Childhood Education Andria Devlin will serve as interim director of the program.
Reimond, who established the program in 1985, has been an integral part of the program since its inception – so much so that the school was named in her honor in 2015.
Arts Center founder and longtime director Ann Evans called Reimond a “truly wonderful and special lady” whose vision for early childhood education helped turn the organization into a community program.
“It is always a joy to visit and hear the happy voices coming from the preschool classrooms, watch them in their outdoor spaces, and to enjoy the amazing artwork by these young artists hanging on display in the galleries or in the hallways. I also value my own creative education that I experienced from working with Linda,” Evans said. “How fortunate the children and families in the Lawrence Arts Center arts-based preschool have been over the years to learn through her amazing creative learning experiences.”
Reimond set out to teach through the joys of childhood discovery, but that seemingly simple vision was somewhat radical as she built the curriculum. In 1985, technology was bringing computers to the classroom and early childhood educators were embracing more academics-based programs. Reimond chose instead to teach through adventure, introducing Lawrence to a brand of early childhood education that utilized the arts and creative play to build the foundations of reading, writing, science and math.
This philosophy of teaching children through play has earned Reimond multiple honors including the national Henry Ford Teacher Innovator Award in 2015, the 2011 Kansas Governor’s Arts Award for arts in education, and multiple years of local recognition (including 2021) as finalist or winner of best preschool teacher in the annual Best of Lawrence. Now in her 36th year, Reimond often finds herself teaching the children of former students.
“I often wonder if, in the early years, Linda realized how important her program would become to thousands of children and to our community,” Devlin said. “Linda has been committed to teaching families, children and educators the importance of being little and how to be the best 2-, 3-, 4-, 5- or 6-year-old you can be. She teaches us all daily how and why we play.”
Arts Center CEO Margaret Morris said she has worked alongside Reimond for more than 20 years and sees her as a creative beacon, advocate, leader, mentor, teacher and friend.
“Her impact spans generations,” Morris said. “I have never known anyone who could be all those things to all those people, and still have the genius-level capacity to invent new ways to educate through play. That is how you know when someone’s passion is their life’s work, which arts-based early education clearly is for her.”
Reimond sums up her incredible career simply, calling it “the BEST job in Lawrence.” And as she teaches her current students using the same guiding principles she used in teaching some of their parents, she remains committed to teaching through love and creativity.
“We should never underestimate the importance of ART and PLAY in our lives,” Reimond said. “Both teach us life skills like creativity, problem solving, cooperation, communication, self-regulation and the social-emotional aspects of life. Visual art teaches us to see, music teaches us to listen, dance teaches us to move with joy, and drama and literature teach us to see through other people’s eyes. Hopefully, that can make us more human.”
Reimond plans to spend her new free time relaxing, settling into her new home and maybe getting back into the gym. However, she won’t be leaving the Arts Center entirely as she also plans to continue teaching “Coloring Outside the Lines” classes.
“Thirty-five years ago this job just fell into my lap,” she said. “I almost didn’t accept the two days per week for 2½ hour job because I had a 2½ year old at home. So glad I did!”