Neighborhood Preschool Teacher Retires After 25 Years

Posted 05/15/08
For 25 years, Elizabeth “Betty” Muir, has provided gentle care and thoughtful instruction for the children of many Wesleyan employees and Middletown community members.

On May 29, Muir will retire from her role at Wesleyan’s Neighborhood Preschool and will be celebrated at a potluck party at 5 p.m. at 115 High Street in Middletown.

“Betty is better than Mary Poppins,” says parent Stephan Angle, associate professor and chair of philosophy, associate professor of East Asian studies. Angle’s daughters, Samantha, now 12, and Rachel, now 9, both spent ages 3 and 4 at the preschool under Betty’s care.

“She cares so much for the kids’ emotional and physical well-being, and knows just what it takes to help them grow as people,” Angle says. “We never worried for a second when dropping the kids off; to the contrary, we knew we were doing something wonderful for them!”

Muir, who worked in the preschool program with 3-and 4-year-olds, was known for her caring manor and taking the children on walks around Wesleyan’s campus.

“We always knew that our children were in good hands when they were with Betty,” says parent Suzanna Tamminen, director of the Wesleyan University Press. “Her seemingly unstoppable energy and optimism are always beautifully balanced by her patience and sensitivity to the needs of others. We have deeply appreciated those qualities as well as her willingness to take on duties that were often above and beyond the normal call.”

Tamminen is the mother of three children, Hugh, 6, Fiona, 4, and Silas, 1. Muir taught Hugh and Fiona each for two years, and Silas currently attends the Neighborhood Preschool.

“We will miss her pumpkin soup, her gardening and her avid recycling,” Tamminen says. “She has truly made a profound difference in the lives of many families in our community, and we are very sad to see her leave.”

Muir also taught Patrick Wiliarty, 4, son of Kevin Wiliarty, Academic Technology coordinator and Sarah Wiliarty, assistant professor of government.

“Betty did such a fine job in helping Patrick grow,” Kevin Wiliarty says. “She expected a lot from the kids, but always in an encouraging way, and I know that Patrick was always proud of the things he learned from her, things about picking up after himself and getting along with friends, for example. In that sense, a bit of Betty will always be with us, because she is one of the people who has helped Patrick to be who he is.”

Petra Bonfert-Taylor and Ed Taylor, both associate professors of mathematics, say their memories of Muir are vividly embedded in their memories of Neighborhood Preschool. Muir taught their daughter, Elaine, for two years. Now 6, Elaine occasionally speaks with a Scottish brogue, a habit acquired from her teacher, Betty.

“To this day, Elaine prefers to pronounce words with a large number of “f’s” where “th” or “ph” might go,” Bonfert-Taylor says. “We always appreciated Betty’s energy and understanding. She took each child as they were and didn’t judge or pigeon hole them. Children are especially sensitive to such things, and her openness was rewarded with much love from the children.”

In her retirement, Muir looks forward to spending more time with her family, and dancing with The Royal Scottish Dance Society.

Anyone who is unable to attend the potluck but would like to contact Betty Muir can write to her at 115 High Street, Middletown, CT 06457.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor