MARK GILLESPIE/Livingston County News
Cindy Zhe prepares to release young butterflies with her pre-school students.
St. Agnes School
St. Agnes’ Cindy Zhe retires
Cindy Zhe’s first preschool students are now in college. She began teaching at St. Agnes School in Avon 23 years ago, at a time when educators started to see that early childhood education was about more than just coloring and games of “Duck, Duck Goose.”
“This was when the new Headstart programs got people thinking about brain development. Researchers learned that what young children are doing between birth and age 8 is more than just play,” she explained. “They’re learning about their world and how to get along with each other.”
The preschool movement also demanded that staff be certified teachers. Zhe had taught for three years in the York Central School district in the 70s, before taking a hiatus to raise her four children Jeremy, Elizabeth, Jonathan and Michael with her husband Bill.
She re-entered teaching at St. Agnes in 1989, crafting a classroom which St. Agnes Principal Gerald Benjamin describes as “ever-evolving, multi-sensory and creative.”
She also likely to take her kids on a tour of the outside world, said Benjamin in a written tribute, “…in a pumpkin patch, by a stream, on a dairy farm, or even on a winter moonlighted St. Francis walk with her children leaving food for God’s forest creatures — or more recently, through technology, Skyping with children in Cameroon.”
On a recent warm June day, Zhe was outside the school releasing young butterflies into the wild. The life cycle of the frog and the butterfly is part of every years’ studies.
“We learn about those animals through song, through dramatic play. We read about butterflies, we make models, we use them when they do math exercises like counting, addition and subtraction”
Zhe has also been active in the life of St. Agnes School, suggesting an alumni database 19 years ago, and establishing a development committee and new school outreach functions.
Zhe’s retirement will be marked by a banquet June 24 from 1–3 p.m. in the pavilion at St. Agnes Church in Avon. Light refreshments will be served.
“I would love to see any alumni who can make it,” said Zhe.
She discourages personal gifts, asking that people consider instead donating to the St. Agnes School Pre-K Endowment Fund which will assist future teachers in her name. Anyone can donate to the fund at any time by making checks payable to St. Agnes School (with Pre-K Fund in the memo), 60 Park Place, Avon, NY 14414.