Painting of founder Rayma Hayes is also on display
Little Star Montessori School will dedicate its new classroom building in Winthrop during an open house on Sunday (Oct. 14) from 3 – 4 p.m.
The community is invited to tour the new infant and toddler classrooms, expanded playground, and indoor activity space that are part of Little Star’s expansion.
A focal point of the new building is a painting of Little Star’s founder, Rayma Hayes, created by her longtime friend, Peggy Coats. The painting hangs in the entryway of the building.
Coats and Hayes were friends for 47 years, until Hayes died in 2017. While living in Spain in 1971, Hayes taught Coats’ daughter, Mercedes, with Montessori materials — the beginning of Hayes’ lifelong career as a teacher.
“Rayma’s great gift as an educator became evident as Mercedes blossomed and Rayma’s curiosity about childhood education grew. Mercedes thought of her as her ‘fairy godmother,’ which has remained a common tribute from the children who Rayma taught,” Coats said.
In her painting, Coats portrayed Hayes kneeling on a patch of grass holding a young girl in her lap, lighting a lantern together. The child in the painting is Coats’ other daughter, Eva, who died in a car accident when she was 4.
“My painting shows Rayma and Eva lighting a lantern to illuminate the twilight — symbolic of a teacher igniting desire for knowledge and enlightenment in her student,” Coats said. Capturing the essence of Hayes and the way she related to children was a challenge, and the painting took her nine months to complete, she said.
“It took me so long to get her face, the expression, the concentration and loving quality.” Hayes was such an exceptional teacher, Coats said, because she retained the ability to understand a child’s view of the world. “She never lost being a child.”
The process of painting her longtime friend was a very positive experience, Coats said. “When the painting was here in my room, it was really like she was here with me. I felt her very much,” she said.
Hayes continued to teach and provide leadership at Little Star until her death at age 73. Coats said she painted Hayes as she appeared in her later years. “I wanted to paint an image that would mean a lot to everybody in the school community as they knew Rayma,” Coats said.
“We were all moved to tears” when the painting was hung, said Dani Reynaud, Little Star’s executive director and a former student. “It really captures Rayma’s essence and it’s how we all remember her.”
In addition to Coats’ painting, the new building also hosts another piece of original art — a donor recognition mural painted by Baylie Peplow of Red Umbrella Design.
Founded by Hayes in 1982, Little Star has expanded over the past two years to provide a new program for infants and toddlers at TwispWorks in the fall of 2017, and new infant and toddler programs that began this fall in the new building in Winthrop.
“We never served infants before, and only had one toddler class” before the expansion, Reynaud said. The expansion has doubled the school’s toddler enrollment, she said.
Little Star now enrolls 120 children from infants through age 6, Reynaud said. About one-fourth of the students, 34, receive some financial aid to assist with tuition, she said.
The school is in the final phase of a capital campaign for the expanded programs and facilities, Reynaud said.