Jeanne Zeigler didn’t plan to be a teacher. She also didn’t plan to stay in Utah. In 1981 when she arrived here to stay with her brother, an administrator at a small school called Rowland Hall, she thought she was just passing through on her way to a grand western adventure that did not involve small children. Luckily for us, that’s not how things worked out.
“I always thought there must be something more interesting I can do, something more original since two out of three of my brothers were teachers and my dad was a teacher,” Zeigler said, with her trademark twinkle in her eye. “Then I met a wonderful teacher named Barbara Rabin, who made teaching children look like the very best way to spend the day. The rest is ‘herstory.’”
It has to start with the relationship you create with the kids. Everything comes from that.—Retiring Teacher Jeanne Zeigler
What a story it has been. Jeanne has worked with students at Rowland Hall in several different capacities. She was an aide in kindergarten. She ran the after-school program. She’s taught first, second, and third grade. No matter what role she was in, though, Jeanne always made sure to build a special bond with each and every student. “It has to start with the relationship you create with the kids,” she said. “Everything comes from that.”
Those relationships are what her students, and their parents, remember years later. Liza Gilbert recalled that Jeanne started building a relationship with her son Henry ’16 even before he entered her classroom in 2006. “She sent a postcard to Henry before he started school, and it said ‘I can't wait to find out all about you,’” Liza said. “I feel like that really captures Jeanne and her teachings. She just has this wonder about every child.”
Not only has Jeanne made a point of getting to know every child, but she let her students know about her. She has made sure she is not someone they can only picture in a classroom between the hours of 8 am and 3 pm. “I loved that Jeanne took all the kids to her house because when my daughter was young she always wondered where her teacher lived,” said Pamela Henderson. Her daughter Meghan ’13 had Jeanne as a teacher for both first and second grade. “Meghan is 24 now and living in New York City, but Jeanne is still her (and my) favorite teacher.”
Lower School Principal Jij de Jesus said the way Jeanne interacts with her students builds a foundation of trust.
Lower School Principal Jij de Jesus said the way Jeanne interacts with her students builds a foundation of trust. “With that foundation, she’s able to help them reach goals they may not have even imagined. She shows her students education isn’t just about her leading and them following—it’s a collaboration.”
For the past two years, Jeanne has been collaborating in the classroom co-teaching third grade with Erika McCarthy. The less-demanding work schedule has provided a welcome segue into retirement. “The last two years have really allowed me to discover that there's a whole big world out there,” she said. “Now I plan to ride my bike, hike, knit, volunteer, and learn some new things.”
Jeanne isn’t completely leaving Rowland Hall though. In the coming year she will be serving on the Board of Trustees. She is especially excited to help with the Capital Campaign tasked with raising money for the new middle and upper school buildings on the Steiner Campus. Head of School Alan Sparrow thinks it’s an ideal fit for Jeanne to be a guiding force in the future of the community.
I want Henry to always remember how he felt as one of Jeanne's students. She just had a way of making him feel loved and happy and so he became a happy learner.—Parent Andrea Matlin
“Throughout my tenure I have counted on Jeanne as an advisor and counselor. She has given me wonderful insights into the school and helped me focus on where our school could get better,” he said. “Jeanne has been a terrific member of our community in that she can see well beyond what she needs for her own classroom or even division and promotes what's good for the whole school.”
Jeanne will be an enduring part of Rowland Hall’s legacy. She is not only in the hearts of her students, but in their rooms as well: Andrea Matlin said her sixth-grade son, Henry, still has a photo of him and his third-grade teacher on his home desk. “I want him to always remember how he felt as one of Jeanne's students,” Andrea said. “She just had a way of making him feel loved and happy and so he became a happy learner."
We wish Jeanne much happiness of her own in her retirement. We know that she will be spending a lot of time marveling at the sunset from the porch of her cabin in Boulder, Utah. We know that she will be reading and re-reading the many books from her two book clubs. We hope she gets to enjoy time on her wished-for scooter (while wearing a helmet, of course). We are all so happy that she became a teacher in Utah, and a teacher at Rowland Hall.