A tribute to Ida Bergson
When my 26-year-old daughter progressed from the old Heights JCC preschool program to kindergarten at Canterbury Elementary School, she expected the teacher that she had for two years to follow her to her new school. Luckily for us, Canterbury needed an art teacher and hired Ida Bergson. This is really the middle of the story, so let me back up a few decades.
My mother and Ida’s mother were friends in elementary school; their relationship would last for over 70 years. My mother’s family moved to Cleveland Heights in time for her to enter high school. Our family moved back to Cleveland Heights when I was born, and it turned out that Ida’s family lived around the corner. So, Ida remembers babysitting me.
As an art teacher at Canterbury, Ida collaborated with the librarian, music teacher, later the Spanish teacher, and, until her retirement, with the physical education teacher (Julie Lustic, another Heights alumna). This creative team developed lessons for an entire school year that revolved around a single theme, e.g., Elizabethan England.
They covered the grade and subject requirements, but planned many of their lessons around the year’s theme. Students might learn a dance from the period in phys. ed., a song in music class, and study or try their hands at art from that period.
This seemingly simple idea took an enormous amount of extra collaborative planning on the part of the team, but unifying the programs in the building was a highlight for my kids as they were going through elementary school. There was excitement each year as a new theme was announced, and a buildup of energy for a final presentation, before summer break, when students would transform the stage in the Canterbury gym to another era.
Among the countless tasks that Ida took on was organizing many of the districtwide art shows exhibiting student work. Julie and Ida were longtime leaders at Canterbury, serving as the union stewards, and on the building management team. Long after my kids had graduated from Canterbury, I maintained regular contact with Ida. Lately, I have been the recipient of garden tips and plants from her, as my wife and I try to create a pollinator garden.
This year, both Ida and I retired from the school district we both attended as kids and served as teachers. I know that Ida will continue to produce beautiful pottery and expand her gardening (if that is at all possible). Beyond that, I hope she will do whatever makes her happy.
Ari Klein is a lifelong community member, a retired Cleveland Heights High School math teacher, and past president of the Cleveland Heights Teachers Union.