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At the Center for 35 Years

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

My favorite public access library is the Suzzallo Library on the University of Washington campus. With two million volumes and lush wood and stained glass throughout, it is a temple to books and knowledge. The Little School has a different kind of library, though no less powerful. With 20,000 volumes, cozy nooks, stuffies in every corner and the famed bathtub, it is a sanctuary for children and to reading and learning. While the space itself is rich with opportunity and welcome, it is Nancy Palmer, the librarian who creates the culture, the mood, the energy that fills the space. The Little School Roush Family Library has books and resources for every single Little School child – from poetry to picture books, from fantasy to graphic novels, from Bob books to Harry Potter. And let’s not forget the published works of generations of Little School students, inspired by Nancy’s appreciation for children’s literary creativity. The TLS library is in many ways the hub of our campus, and Nancy is at its center. So here it is, 35 years after Nancy started at TLS, and she has decided to retire. Ok – take a breath and consider how many books have been checked out, how many conversations about favorite authors have occurred and how many students have felt known and cared for by Nancy – surely as many as there are books on the shelves. Here is part of what Nancy offered to colleagues when making her retirement announcement:

“’The time has come,’ the Walrus said,
‘To talk of many things:
Of shoes—and ships—and sealing wax—
Of cabbages and retirings….’” (with apologies to Lewis Carroll)

Her message is so Nancy! Clever, well read and with a subtle twist of humor. She is a consummate educator, able to explore the literary interests of every Little School student while simultaneously intuiting the emotional needs of each child. She brings wisdom and whimsy to her work with the youngest child just learning about letters and to the mature reader soon to be headed to middle school eager to learn more. Her range is astonishing. Beyond her work with children, Nancy serves as a model of professional growth, always searching out new books and articles to share with colleagues and families. Her mission is rooted in the best of progressive education ideals (borrowed and adapted from the Progressive Education Network (

  • Nancy works to engage students as active participants in their learning and in society.
  • Nancy supports teachers’ voices as experienced practitioners and growth as lifelong learners.
  • Nancy builds solidarity between progressive educators in the public and private sectors.
  • Nancy strives to advance critical dialogue on the roles of schools in a democratic society.
  • Nancy responds to contemporary issues from a progressive educational perspective.
  • Nancy welcomes families and communities as partners in children’s learning.
  • Nancy promotes diversity, equity and justice in our school.

There is a great deal to celebrate about Nancy’s teaching career at The Little School. In the coming months I hope you will join me in saying thank you. She leaves a legacy of teaching and learning that is rare in its depth, breadth and length of service to children. An honorable career!