It all started with a photo. Kristie Eid, Boutwells Landing Quality in Living Specialist, noticed a black and white class portrait in Betty Steindorff’s apartment and listened to Betty describe how it was a daily reminder of her passion for teaching. Kristie was hooked.
Betty, better known as “Miss Steindorff” to her students, taught at Walter Reed Elementary school in Arlington, Virginia. Many years later, she moved to Boutwells Landing in Oak Park Heights, Minnesota where she especially enjoyed the visits from the onsite daycare children. As the years passed, some of her memories of teaching faded but she very clearly remembers the joy that each student brought her.
Nestled among family pictures, the 61 year old class photo of Miss Steindorff standing in the back of a classroom of 25 students in sturdy wooden desks, became the focus of their conversation and so much more.
Betty lamented that she could no longer remember the names of all the children in the photograph. Kristie saw this as an opportunity to help Betty pursue her passion and enlisted the help of Darcy DeMars, Director of Digital Marketing at Presbyterian Homes & Services (PHS) to identify the students.
Darcy sought out Facebook groups for graduates of the school where Betty taught and for the city of Arlington. There, she was allowed to join the groups and posted Miss Steindorff’s class photo along with the message that she was hoping to identify each of the students by name.
It was a long shot; over 60 years had gone by since the photo was taken and yet, the comments came flooding in. One student quickly commented, “I was in the front row in this picture, third from the left! She was my favorite teacher!” Another found a different classroom photo and shared, “I had Miss Steindorff for second grade…She was a wonderful, loving teacher!” The number of comments spoke volumes to the kind of teacher Miss Steindorff was and the positive impression she left on so many of her students. Motivated to help Miss Steindorff remember her class, one former student even dug into the Arlington Library archives to see if he could uncover more memories of Miss Steindorff!
When Kristie brought the news to Miss Steindorff, the seasoned educator beamed as the memories came back. She shared that she loved everything about being a teacher and the students brought her so much joy. She told Kristie that she would like to write each of them a letter that would start, “To my 3rd grade class, you made my dreams come true.” Unfortunately, as her Parkinson’s disease progressed, Betty’s ability to speak began to fade away.
When about half the students were identified and it seemed the novelty of the post had worn off, Darcy was delighted to receive a message from one of Miss Steindorff’s students. The student said that she dusted off her copy of the photo and found that she had written the names of her classmates next to their faces! She was able to identify the whole class and shared, “she was a wonderful teacher, and she inspired me to become a teacher!” Kristie excitedly shared the news with Betty. Tears filled Miss Steindorff’s eyes as she once again looked at the classroom photo she had kept for over six decades, this time, with names for each of their now familiar faces.
Just a few days later, Miss Steindorff passed away. Kristie shared, “I was able to see just one small part of Betty’s story but seeing her former students share more about her was incredible.” From Virginia to Minnesota, students shared fond memories of Miss Steindorff, their inspiring teacher from Walter Reed Elementary.
More about ResoLute
Our ResoLute program stands for Resident Empowered Solutions on Living Until the End. As displayed by the capital R and L in the title, ResoLute emphasizes Resident Living. The program strives to support residents and loved ones to embrace aging with purpose and determination through an unwavering commitment to uphold what matters most.
ResoLute is an upstream palliative approach beginning with each resident’s first encounter with PHS care centers so they have more time to achieve successful aging and less time spent on unnecessary and unwanted medical interventions.
The ResoLute program is funded by a grant from the Minnesota Department of Health. Ten PHS care centers are participating in the program in collaboration with other providers through the Empira consortium.