Lynette Mast Named Kindergarten Teacher

April 4, 2019 / Andrea Wenger
Lynette Mast often facilitates snack preparation with the kindergarten class.
Lynette Mast often facilitates snack preparation with the kindergarten class.

Lynette Good ‘84 Mast has been named lead kindergarten teacher at Eastern Mennonite Elementary School. She succeeds Barbara Miller, who served in the role since 2006 and retires at the end of this academic year.

As an early visionary of the elementary program, together with her husband Chris Mast ‘84 and others, Mast is in her 12th year as peacebuilding teacher and school garden coordinator. For the past seven years she has served as kindergarten classroom assistant in addition to her other roles.

“Lynette’s passion for restoring relationships among people, with God and with the earth comes through in all she does,” says Maria Archer, K-8 principal who has worked with Mast since the program’s inception. “All of us — administrators, teachers, parents as well as students — respond to her gentle spirit and calm voice. And we’re inspired to work at right relationships too.”

In the early 2000s, Lynette and Chris — together with several other couples — began brainstorming about what an elementary program would look like at Eastern Mennonite High School. As parents of young children, they were interested in an elementary program that would expand on what they had valued about their EMHS years with an emphasis on music, educating the whole person and the integration of faith into everyday life.

Additionally, they envisioned a school that valued time out of doors, space for imaginative play, an emphasis on creativity, and a focus on building community.

Peacebuilding and Gardening

As an employee of the new school, Lynette developed and implemented the peacebuilding curriculum which helps students learn to listen, respectfully disagree, respect people and ideas from varied perspectives and develop problem solving skills.

“But it’s more than a curriculum with specific class periods,” notes Archer. “She helped shape an entire school culture based on believing in the inherent dignity of each student and the importance of each student finding their voice and place in the community.”

The gardening aspect of Mast’s work was a hands-on way for students to learn about making peace with creation. “Students learn that their choices have an impact on others and are immersed in the wonders of nature when we garden together,” says Mast, who earned a certificate in permaculture in addition to her education training and studies in restorative education. “We meet God when we connect to the earth. I hope to instill a passion for caring for the earth. And I see children develop a sense of belonging when they work at a common goal using their hands.”

As she moves from assistant classroom teacher to lead teacher, Mast reflects that it’s been a good progression. “Barbara and I have been a good team. With her as lead teacher, I’ve had energy to focus on various aspects of our elementary program.” It’s time, she notes, for someone else to take the peacebuilding program to a new level.

“I look forward to collaborating with someone as a classroom teacher, knowing there will be so many ways to continue working on peace building every day in the kindergarten room. There’s so much happening in the field of restorative classrooms and building community.”

Mast’s work in the field has a reach far beyond EMES as she was part of the team that created the Encounter curriculum for Mennonite Church USA, used by schools supported by the denomination as part of Mennonite Schools Council and beyond.

Locally, she plays a lead role in the Interfaith Peace Camp for children to be offered again this summer. The week-long program brings together Christian, Muslim and Jewish children to build relationships with and respect for other traditions and views. The program is sponsored by the Center for Interfaith Engagement at Eastern Mennonite University and the Center for Global Engagement at James Madison University, together with local faith communities: Islamic Association of Shenandoah Valley, Beth El Congregation, and Park View Mennonite Church.

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