In Loving Memory of Eric Stein
Dear Peter’s Place Families,
In 1974, Eric Stein and Widge Nelson began a small nursery school in the basement of the parish hall of St. Peter’s Church. They were in their early 20’s, had lots of energy and a clear vision for what young children needed. Forty years later, Peter’s Place remains the legacy of their vision and we are so proud to be able to continue on that journey that Eric and Widge started.
Eric taught at Peter’s Place for 10 years and then went on to become a psychotherapist for Bay Area children and families. All the while, he remained on the board guiding Peter’s Place from behind the scenes. As early childhood professionals, we have been extremely privileged to have access to Eric’s wisdom whenever we had our own questions about how to best help a child. He had a special ability to listen with the utmost empathy and then to give incredible insight and advice. His good humor, positivity and kindness have been an inspiration to all of us.
In July 2014, Eric was diagnosed with ALS. Eric Stein, beloved husband of Sharon Leong, passed peacefully on December 26th, 2015. I cannot express to you the loss that has been felt among our staff as well as many other San Francisco professionals in the field of early childhood who worked with him. He was just one of those people with an incredible talent for understanding children and families and the perfect thing to say at the perfect time.
You may not have personally known Eric Stein, or maybe your family was one of those whose lives he touched with his humor and goodness. Either way, if your child attended Peter’s Place, Eric Stein’s magic dust has been sprinkled on your family.
A memorial in celebration of his life will take place on January 30th, 2016 at 11am at the Presidio Chapel, 130 Fisher Loop, 94129. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals. (PETA).
To read more about Eric Stein, here is a link to his obituary: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/sfgate/obituary.aspx?pid=177125954
He will be dearly missed by all of us at Peter’s Place.
A note from our founders: Elizabeth “Widge” Nelson and Eric Stein
On a September morning in 1974, the two of us opened the doors of this school to a group of children for the first time. We were in our mid-twenties. We had been working with preschoolers for a couple of years. We had just completed our teaching credentials a month before the school opened! We had very little experience, but we were on fire with ideas about the kind of school we wanted to create. Fortunately, a group of excited and committed parents joined us in this vision.
That was a long time ago. How long ago? Richard Nixon had just resigned as President on August 8th. The Beatles had recently disbanded. Bill Gates was going off for his first year of college. There were a handful of hobbyists who were building small computers from kits that you could actually use in your home.
The world has changed a lot in the years that followed. Many of those children who toddled in the door in 1974 now have children of their own. Both of us have moved on in our careers, but we continue to serve on the Peter’s Place Board of Directors. It is a source of great satisfaction to us that after so many years the best aspects of our original vision for the school remain intact.
We pictured a school that was small enough that every teacher would know and understand every child, and every child could trust every teacher. The school would serve as a bridge between the familiar life at home and the larger educational institutions that the children would encounter at a later age.
We believed that young children learn most effectively if they are provided rich, meaningful and skillfully-facilitated opportunities for spontaneous exploratory play.
We wanted a school where the emotional lives of children were taken seriously and respected, a place where children felt emotionally safe. We wanted to impart values like self-respect and respect for others not by lecturing, but by demonstrating these values in our way of relating to children. We wanted to support the children in developing the social skills and empathy that are the basis of lasting and meaningful friendships and relationships throughout the course of life.
We considered “teachable moments” in the personal and interpersonal lives of children to be at the core of the curriculum. Our small class size and favorable teacher student ratio enable teachers to focus on individual children in the moment, to pay attention to the inner experience of a child or a cluster of children addressing issues that come up and working through them rather than simply moving along to the next activity. We remain confident that by doing so, we can help children to achieve healthy self-esteem and social problem-solving skills that will be of lasting value as they proceed into the future.
When we visit Peter’s Place now, we can see that the program is better then ever. Over the years, the staff at Peter’s Place has continued to explore, refine and elaborate on the ideas that were the bedrock of the school so many years ago. If you share our excitement about this warm, supportive approach to enhancing the lives of young children, we welcome you to inquire further about this truly remarkable school.
Elizabeth Nelson and Eric Stein