Occupation: Former early childhood educator, founding mother of The Children’s Centre, volunteer at the Senior’s Resource Centre
Bio: Pat was born in England and wound up in Toronto working at children’s summer camp in the late 50s while exploring the world as a young woman. She met and married artist Don Wright there and moved to St. John’s with him in 1967. She arrived with a two-year-old and a newborn baby in tow, and began discussing the idea of opening a preschool in town with other mothers who relocated here and who shared her philosophy of child development. In September 1968, The Preschool Centre opened.
It was from The Preschool Centre that The Children’s Centre, a non-profit, parent-run preschool—currently celebrating its 40th anniversary—evolved. Pat sent both her kids there, taught preschool there and remained an active participant long after her kids moved on and she began working with Community Services Council, training people for early childhood education. In the early 70s she also opened up a toy store called Children’s World, and she coordinated the first Family Resource Centre at Community Services. These days she is retired, but still dedicating her smarts and her spirits to The Senior’s Resource Centre.
How did you end up spending most of your life dedicated to kids?: “I sort of fell into it when my first child was very small. We were still in Toronto and I ended up doing some work at an agency that helped needy children. And then, marrying a visual artist and art educator, I became interested in children’s art. [In children’s artwork] you can see development so clearly and you can see the range of ideas that children can come up with so clearly.”
When you were starting the Children’s Centre, did you ever imagine that it would continue this long?: Not at first. “There came a point when we realized it was going to continue and when we realized it was a really important model…when you’ve got something that’s really solid in its philosophy, it’s going to keep going.”
— Sarah Smellie