BY KARA CHITWOOD
Our community recently lost an amazing woman after a sudden and short battle with cancer. To say Sarah Mogen was the heart and soul of Washington Park Early Learning Center, is an understatement. For anyone who was lucky enough to know her, you know that she had a hand in raising hundreds of kids for over a decade during her time at the little school. Sarah loved flying paper airplanes, planting new life, honoring nature’s treasures, painting with bright colors, being in the community, sharing with neighbors and acting with abundant joy.
It was a bright and sunny afternoon, and Emerson was wearing a graduation cap made of construction paper and glitter. As I watched my youngest daughter walk across the bridge at her Washington Park Early Learning Center graduation ceremony, I heard Ms. Sarah read from the handmade placemat that was created individually for each student. “The important thing about Emerson is….”
I wish I could contain all of the “important” about Ms. Sarah into a simple statement, but that is simply not possible. I met Sarah Mogen when I was pregnant with Emerson and searching for a preschool for my older daughter. I randomly attended a preschool panel at the Whole Foods community room. The panel was filled with mostly play or experiential-based learning programs, and on paper, all seemed up my alley. But the second Sarah opened her mouth to speak passionately about WPELC, I thought “YOU. My kids need to be with you.” She oozed all things lovely and magical and organic about early child education, and looked like the most perfect, most beautiful preschool teacher that you could ever imagine: long, flowing blonde hair, overalls, a funky scarf, converse shoes.
The special thing about Ms. Sarah was that she immediately made you feel like she was yours, and you were hers. And we all were. She knew your kid as soon as she entered her classroom – and with that, she also knew you. Every kid needs something – help bursting out of her shell, extra guidance with conflict resolution, attention to sensory needs, etc. She was a master at quickly identifying the challenges and strengths of her students.
In turn, she was able to identify the challenges and strengths of her students’ parents. She taught me how to be a mother to my own kids. She gave me permission to give my children permission to be exactly who they are (one willful, sparkly, and curious, and the other kind-hearted and an old-soul). With tears in her eyes – because if you knew Sarah you know she cried about something sweet and lovely and wonderful just about every day – she would say: “You’re a good mommy. Being a parent is hard. You’re doing a great job.”
I am beyond grateful to have been able to work with her in different capacities over the years, but even more blessed that my girls’ educational career began with someone who consistently encouraged them to explore their curiosities and supported their self-directed desires and interests. She made our world a better place through her passion for creating beautiful and inviting educational opportunities lovingly disguised as play. She loved each of her “little humans” fiercely, openly and fully, and held space for them to shine brightly in their own individual light.
I saw her the other day, as I was walking into work. She was floating around the wooden bird carving by the school entrance, and then the wooden chimes on the playground clanged. I stopped, looked around and felt her blow me a kiss and say, “Thank you. I love you.” The important thing about Ms. Sarah is that she was pure love.
If you would like to honor Ms. Sarah with a donation to Washington Park Early Learning Center, visit https://wpelc.org/donate/ or you can make a donation to her daughter Lily here https://www.youcaring.com/sarahmogen-740326.