Share This Page

Bellwood founder honored with tree dedication in Franklin Park

| Wednesday, May 1, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Courtesy of Don Nelson
Bellwood Preschool student Ellie Kutlenios and Jan Ridenour of Marshall Township work together to shovel in some dirt on a tree planted in Ridenout’s honor. Preschool students planted two redbud trees April 22, 2013, Earth Day, to honor Ridenour, who recently retired after 44 years at Bellwood, which is in Franklin Park.

For Jan Ridenour, life is about nurture and nature.

And to honor her, students at Bellwood Preschool in Franklin Park planted two redbud trees on Earth Day last week and dedicated them to Ridenour, one of the school's founders. Ridenour, 76, retired last year after 44 years looking after the children's education.

“I'm humbled,” the Marshall Township resident said about the staff and board members who treated her to a Pittsburgh river cruise. “It was a nice surprise.”

School director Linda Moser wanted to think of something special to celebrate Ridenour.

“She has a wonderful way of letting children explore — especially nature,” said Moser, 67. “She's never afraid to get dirty. She's patient. She taught them how to observe nature.”

The love of the outdoors is second nature to Ridenour, who has been an active member of the North Area Environmental Council and Pine Creek Land Conservation Trust, where she now is president.

She grew up in Edgewood and remembers playing in the woods.

“I've always been a tree hugger,” she said.

In a bid to bring more environmentally-focused education into classrooms, the first local celebration of Earth Day promoted by Ridenour in the 1970s brought North Allegheny teachers into North Park for a professional-development day.

Ridenour began her career at Bellwood in 1969. After a three-week summer workshop at a Connecticut preschool, she began redesigning activities at her school. In addition to her recreation education degree from Penn State University, she studied the Montessori Method of individualized education to expand her program.

Today, Bellwood's mission for the 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds and their parents is “to provide each child with the opportunity to problem solve, explore and be empowered in a nurturing environment that develops compassionate children who know they live in a global village on a fragile planet. “

The school's rural setting at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the North Hills invites the children into the outdoors.

“We're now hatching chicken eggs and watching caterpillars turn into butterflies,” Moser said.

Having devoted 38 years to the school, Moser also enrolled her daughter Emily, who now is 42 and in her first year of teaching there. What they both like about the instructional style is “Kids always had time to tell what's on their minds and in their hearts,” Linda Moser said.

Ridenour's six grandchildren also attended Bellwood.

“They're a very loving staff,” Ridenour said, as she watched the teachers usher the children back into the building. “I couldn't have asked for a better journey.”

Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6353 or ddreeland@tribweb.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.