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Once So Quiet, Not Any More

The Secret Life of Scientists and EngineersThe Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers

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Today’s guest blogger is Emily Whiting’s kindergarten teacher and friend, Evelyn Hambly. By Mrs. Hambly’s reckoning, she “taught about twelve hundred primary & kindergarten students over twenty-seven and a half years in Dundas, Ontario, a beautiful town in the valley of the Niagara Escarpment.” And one of those students was Emily. We thank Mrs. Hambly for taking the time to share more of Emily’s story.

I am pleased to write this blog post for Emily Whiting. I was her first teacher in kindergarten and have become her longtime friend.

Once So Quiet, Not Any More-emily_as_a_kindergarten_play_narrator.jpg
The architectural engineer as a young play narrator.

I was in my 24th year of teaching when Emily first appeared in my classroom, hiding behind the door. I vividly remember how she peeked with sparkling, wide-open eyes, wrapped tightly in her pink raincoat. Emily was silent throughout the meet-the-teacher time. However, parents were invited to bring along anything their children had done and I was impressed by the drawings and origami Emily had made at home. Instantly I knew that here was an outstanding little girl, perfectly proper and quiet.

Within a short time Emily became the narrator for our class play “The Little Red Hen.” By Spring, Emily had mastered the highly visible post of conductor for our kindergarten instrumental orchestra. How does a quiet little girl possibly walk onto a stage and perform? I was to realize later that, whenever Emily decided to embark on a project, she would not stop until every detail had been perfected.

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Emily and I stayed in touch. I have watched as she blossomed in music and art. Since age 7, day after day she diligently developed her art of flute playing. I knew how many scales she had drilled when she soared in performances of Debussy’s “Syrinx” solo, or Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet” suite. Such discipline has become part of her nature, and it has kept her moving forward.

At 14 Emily started to learn medieval illuminated calligraphy at our Burlington Art Gallery. Shortly after, she became the youngest member of the Hamilton Calligraphy Guild. Impressed by her work, I commissioned her to create color illuminated calligraphy bookplates for my church. The United Church of Canada had just published a new hymn book called “Voices United.”

A proud Mrs. Hambly holding some of Emily’s work

Emily’s illuminated bookplates appeared on the front page of our 350 new volumes for our congregation. Her work was beautiful, bringing back references to medieval religious text. An unusual pursuit for a 16-year-old attending high school, but in retrospect, it combined her patient devotion
A proud Mrs. Hambly holding some of Emily’s work to detail and interests in historical art forms. She became somewhat of a resident calligrapher, later designing a matching bookplate for use on our new Bibles, and again for an official gift presentation to Kaga, a Japanese twin city with our town, Dundas, Ontario.

Time after time Emily has astounded me with interests she excels in. Is this the same quiet little girl who was so reluctant to step into my classroom?

Original funding for "The Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers" was provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.