Lower School Librarian, 2000–2018
Children sat snuggled together on the couches, overstuffed chairs, or on the floor in the library, listening intently to Joan Eisenberg’s every word. Soft-spoken by nature, her quiet voice drew them close, creating an intimate space where they could cozy up, settle in and hear a great story like Mo Willems’ Elephant & Piggie, or The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. In the dark of winter, when everyone needed a boost, she’d help to plan a pajama day and children would scurry across the circle in their PJs, where she’d even provide hot chocolate. Every child loved going to library, and they especially loved Mrs. Eisenberg.
They appreciated her because she really got know them, to know what kind of a reader they were, and to recommend books that she knew they would love. She hooked reluctant readers by talking with them and finding out their passions. One book at a time, she reeled them in, and before they knew it, they were begging for more. From the home reading program in the Junior Building to the annual Summer Reading book project each fall, to the Caldecott unit in Grade 3 and the Massachusetts Children’s Book Award challenge in Grade 5, Joan made reading adventurous and fun.
The Lower School naturally wanted to make a book for Mrs. Eisenberg in honor of her retirement this spring, and each member of our K–5 community, all 192 of us, created a written tribute to her. Time and again, students expressed their love and gratitude, thanking her in pictures and words for her insightful literary recommendations, and for guiding them to a love of reading.
Always a teacher, Joan was also a lifelong advocate for social justice. In the late 60s and early 70s she was a VISTA volunteer on a reservation in North Dakota, and an elementary teacher on a Zuni reservation in New Mexico. In New York City, during the women’s liberation movement, she, along with 45 other employees of Newsweek, successfully sued the magazine for gender discrimination. She was a union rep during the time she worked at the Cambridge Public Library prior to coming to Milton, and has always been a supporter of literacy programs for underserved populations. Joan cares deeply about others and about our connected humanity. She also believes in connected curriculums and interdisciplinary learning, and found a lively place to do so in Milton’s Lower School.
Part of the infamous Cambridge/Somerville carpool for the past 18 years, Joan is definitely not going to miss slogging through daily traffic on the Southeast Expressway. Soon, she’ll be moving back to Falmouth with her husband, Paul. They look forward to spending more time with their 2-year-old grandson Teddy, and enjoying all that retired life will bring them.
By Sandra Butler
Lower School Art Faculty Member