More than 225 young people from Chemainus and Crofton will always have fond memories of preschool teacher Joke Slater.
News of the popular longtime Chemainus StrongStart and Eagle Wings Preschool teacher’s death brought sadness to those who benefited from her expertise in their formative years and all those who knew her for being such an engaging personality.
”It is hard for a child to remember the significant people they have met and events that have happened in life before five years of age, but teacher Joke remembered and held all ‘her’ children in a special place in her heart,” noted Wendy Lambert, coordinator of the community school and family centre programs in Chemainus and Crofton. “Joke chose the Eagle Wings Preschool vision statement ‘Parents give children roots, teachers help them to fly’, referring in part to how preschool readies a child for kindergarten.”
Lambert wrote an article on Slater for Early Childhood Educator BC magazine, sharing some details about the special qualities of her personality.
“How many people can say they have alligator teeth growing from their fingertips?” Lambert queried. “Anyone who went to a preschool program taught by Joke Slater might remember those beautiful, long fingernails. Teacher Joke grew those fingernails so she could clack together alligator teeth, claw like a bear and make sound effects while telling stories to little children. Or so she told us. Clickety clack! Here comes the Little Engine That Could!”
Lambert noted Slater’s enthusiasm for community theatre enhanced all her preschool activities.
”What a master story teller she was, whether with a book, a felt board or from memory. She loved to sing with the children and her enjoyment of music was infectious. Joke’s classes were filled with happy energy. When one visitor inquired “What are you doing today children?”, teacher Joke replied for the class, as though it were a planned project, “We’re laughing!”
“Joke embraced her career as a preschool teacher with great passion and was well respected in the professional community for her knowledge. Her own children motivated her to become an Early Childhood Educator and she embarked on that career in 1980.”
Slater developed as an ECE and became owner, operator and director of ‘Little People’s Schoolhouse’ until 1993, Lambert added.
Her professional direction morphed at that point and she became an adult educator, teaching ECE for both Career Builders and Vancouver Career College for a decade. However, Slater could not resist the pull of children.
”She found herself back in the classroom as a parent-child Mother Goose facilitator, as manager and head teacher of Eagle Wings Preschool located in Chemainus Elementary Community School and as facilitator for the Chemainus StrongStart program,” Lambert pointed out.
Slater remained in the position until she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, reluctantly retiring in 2014 after nine years with the Chemainus Crofton Community Schools Association.