By Lyndsie Kiebert
Cynthia Mason has been teaching in Sandpoint for more than two decades, and teaching in general since the ‘70s. After this coming school year, she’ll retire in order to travel more and “do stuff while (she) can.”
“I’m at a landmark ending,” she said. “But I feel like I’m leaving a legacy.”
That legacy is her school, Cynthia’s Preschool and Kindergarten, which will continue thanks to investor Mike Johnson and handpicked teacher Hallie Reikowsky.
“I wanted to see the school kept just as it is, and the universe brought that,” Mason said.
Reikowsky, who Mason met through a parent of one of her students, has worked with children in some capacity most of her life. Though she didn’t always think she’d become a teacher, she said she believes “you know when you’re called to do it.” She’s been working with Mason in the afternoons at the school for a few years.
“Carrying the torch for Cynthia’s Preschool and Kindergarten is an honor,” Reikowsky said. “To maintain her legacy and create more loving, problem-solving, mindful beings to send forth — how lucky am I?”
Cynthia’s Preschool and Kindergarten caters to 4- through 6-year-olds and covers everything from academics to community service, world culture and gratitude exercises. The house in which the school is held, located at 424 S. Ella Avenue, features a kitchen with past students’ senior portraits hung proudly on the cabinets, children’s artwork lining the walls, and each room hosting a purpose — the quiet room, the active room, the cubby room, and so on. Mason said it feels much like a one-room schoolhouse, with 12 kids in attendance at a time.
Mason said it’s important to her that she “send out seeds of peace” in the form of her students, and that what they learn at the school carries them into their future experiences as adaptable, mindful, caring people. She said she often hears stories about her past students being the peacekeepers on the playground or picking up litter when they see it.
“Most people, when they leave their place of business, they leave it for the day,” she said. “It’s not like that for me. I go out into the community and I’m surrounded by it. I see little sprouts everywhere,” she said.
“Well, some are big sprouts now,” Reikowsky said.
“True,” Mason said with a smile. “I’m to the point now where I’m teaching the children of my previous students. I’m just so thankful for this community, and I want them to know that this school is going to continue providing outstanding academics, and above that, teaching kindness and gratitude.”
Moving forward, it’s a policy Reikowsky plans to continue.
“(Reikowsky) treats the students with respect and love,” Mason said. “She will bring it all forward. It’s such a gift.”