Saturday, May 16, 2020

Remembering Peggy Oxley

I learned that my colleague Peggy Oxley passed away recently and I wanted to take a moment to honor her memory. 

Peggy was a long-time classroom teacher and a lover of literature and poetry for young people. She and I served as co-chairs of the NCTE Poetry Award committee that chose Nikki Grimes as the recipient back in 2006. Peggy was such a wonderful collaborator--the kindest, gentlest soul. She taught second grade at St. Paul Catholic School in Westerville, Ohio for her entire 43-year teaching career, not retiring until age 86. Isn't that incredible? And she is everyone's dream of the perfect second grade teacher-- endlessly patient and positive. She brought authors, illustrators, and poets into her classroom long before that was a cool trend and helped parents and colleagues see the value in providing children with this special experience. 
Peggy also invested in ongoing professional development, founding The Literacy Connection (and serving as its longtime President), a well-regarded teacher support group and was an active presenter at conferences and author of scholarly publications like Reading and Writing, Where It All Begins: Helping your Children at Home (1991), receiving many awards throughout her career.  

Franki Sibberson, literacy leader and a fellow Ohioan like Peggy, wrote a lovely tribute at the blog she maintains with Mary Lee Hahn, A Year of Reading.

Janet Wong served on the NCTE Poetry Award committee along with Peggy and me and was kind enough to write a new poem honoring our friend, Peggy. I think it perfectly captures Peggy's love for nature, children, and poetry. 


Linda said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. I didn't know Peggy, but she sounds like an amazing woman. Janet's poem is a lovely tribute to her and the lives she touched.

skanny17 said...

I distinctly recall meeting Peggy Oxley in Boston in 2013 at NCTE. It was at the packed poetry session with as I recall Georgia Heard and Ralph Fletcher among others. There was was Peggy, obviously a senior woman, smiling, arms full with purse and supplies like books and bag. She and I bonded in an instant. I am and was smitten. We became e-penpals and instant friends. In a variety of ways we always regret things in life. I regret not knowing Peggy well and not knowing my beloved poetry community years ago. However, if I could have worked with Peggy, attended sessions of hers, visited her classroom, read her work I know we would have been another set of "best friends" (which I believe she is famous for.) Such a legacy and while I missed out on many interactions I found out why she she is beloved in what feels like a heartbeat. Such sincerity, warmth, grace, desire, interest, purpose, energy. She was everything I hoped to be. A role model. A teacher's teacher, the kind of teacher more could be if the powers that be would get out of the way. Not everyone can work until 86, but so many more could be as committed, driven and effective as Peggy if their innate love of teaching and learning could be fostered and allowed to flourish. Thank God for Peggy Oxley. Janet's poem captures and honors her so beautifully. I hope she is swimming in Heaven's poetry pond, splashing about with everything she loves. Thank you, Sylvia. The world should mourn the loss of dear Peggy.

skanny17 said...

PS Janet Clare Fagal

Georgia Heard said...

Sylvia, I'm so sad to hear about Peggy's passing. She was a true champion of poetry and was a gentle and positive force in the education world. The last time I saw Peggy was when I gave a poetry reading in an Ohio bookstore on a rainy night and Peggy was there. I loved chatting with her then and whenever I visited her school. I was also on the NCTE Poetry Committee with Peggy and Janet when we awarded Nikki Grimes the poetry prize.
I will miss Peggy! Thank you for remembering Peggy. xo

Sylvia Vardell said...

Thank you all for remembering Peggy with us. Such a dear person, such a kind soul. She touched us all!