On the afternoon of May 3, CU Denver unveiled a special space inside the School of Education & Human Development (SEHD). The exquisite Rebecca Kantor Digital Atelier stirs imagination, creativity, expressiveness, and style. Located in Room 1100 of the Lawrence Street Building, the atelier perfectly brings together Dean Kantor’s love of the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education with her passion for exploring the boundaries of digital teaching and learning. The space deconstructs the typical classroom creating multi-modal learning opportunities and merging tactile hands-on materials with digital tools to support learning across distance that engage the various senses.
May 3, 2022 has special significance. It is Kantor’s birthday, and it is a little over a year after her passing. It is also the day that the CU System recognized Kantor posthumously with the University Distinguished Service Award.
Family and close friends gathered to share gratitude and memories of Kantor and for a ribbon-cutting ceremony and room exploration. Attendees included family members Reed Martin (husband), Evan Martin (son), Ali Kantor (sister) and online attendees Maxine Hamann (daughter), Seth Kantor (brother) and Colette Hamann (grandchild).
CU attendees included CU Denver Chancellor Michelle Marks, Anschutz Chancellor Don Elliman, Former Chancellor Dorothy Horrell, Provost Constancio Nakuma, SEHD Co-Interim Deans Barbara Seidl and Scott Bauer and former SEHD Dean Lynn Rhodes. SEHD’s new Dean Marvin Lynn attended virtually. He will start his new position on July 1, 2022. SEHD faculty, staff, alumni, donors, and members of Colorado’s early childhood community came to celebrate Dean Kantor’s life.
Co-Interim Dean Barbara Seidl was the first to speak at the ceremony. She celebrated the many gifts Kantor left in place for SEHD: a caring community; a vibrant culture defined by equity, innovation and growth that is “future ready;” the gift of agility, strength, and optimism with the tools in place to lead into the future. “We have missed you, Rebecca, but all of us have tried to be good stewards of the gifts that you left us,” said Seidl. “[The atelier] is a physical manifestation of the love and appreciation that we have for you and a way for us to maintain your spirit in our lives.”
Co-Interim Dean Scott Bauer spoke next. He described how the selection of the ceremony date aligns with Jewish mourning ritual. “In Jewish tradition, there is an obligation to create some form of matzeveh or a monument usually to mark the site of a grave,” said Bauer. “But in this case, the Atelier serves that purpose. Custom suggests that an unveiling ceremony takes place, in this case, a ribbon cutting, about a year after we lose a loved one. There are a few specific prayers associated with this tradition. The ceremony is very brief. Its purpose aligns very well with our goal this afternoon. The unveiling is intended to remind family and friends that our memories are a blessing and that they will always be with us as our lives continue to be enriched by having known, respected, and loved Rebecca.”
Next, Chancellor Marks extended a welcome to family attendees and spoke dearly about Colette, Kantor and Reed’s first grandchild who was born just a few months before her passing, and Kantor’s passion for early childhood education. She mentioned that Kantor was instrumental in honing CU Denver’s commitment to early child education citing many examples including digging into research projects with early childhood educators in Reggio Emilia, Italy, bringing the National P-3 Center to CU Denver and serving as a leader on Governor Polis’ Early Childhood Leadership Commission. “Rebecca put kids first and she inspired teachers, who inspired the little ones to dream big,” she said. “Rebecca’s memory is going to live forever at CU Denver and through her memorial fund, which continues to provide support for the students in SEHD.”
Kristie Kauerz, director of the National P-3 Center and a clinical associate professor at SEHD, read a proclamation under the executive seal of the State of Colorado and signed by Governor Jared Polis. It proclaimed May 3, 2022, as Rebecca Kantor Day. The proclamation will hang in the Rebecca Kantor Digital Atelier.
Lori Ryan, clinical associate professor at SEHD, spoke about how Kantor “lit up” in the ateliers in Italy. Atelier spaces are like artist studios, laboratories and makerspaces. “Ateliers inspired Rebecca’s thinking about teaching and learning for young children and for adults,” said Ryan. “Most recently the ateliers in Reggio Emilia have become infused with contemporary technologies and it is the combined modalities of the digital and analog that make the ateliers unique and striking. Tangible and tactile materials interact with digital spaces that invite multiple ways of learning, of planning, of making meaning.” Ryan mentioned that the planners of the space, who included staff at Boulder Journey School and faculty at SEHD, envisioned this atelier as inclusive of all learners, a perfect space for boundary-less learning, that not only holds Reggio inspirations and digital innovations, but “equally holds Rebecca’s vision for deeper learning, playful inquiry, and the joy we can experience by pushing boundaries and courageously leading into the future.”
Finally, Brad Hinson, assistant dean and senior instructor at SEHD, and a group of instructors at SEHD, gave everyone a virtual tour of the atelier. “This room reflects so many of the things that Rebecca taught me personally, and I think all of us,” said Hinson. An important nuance of the space is a unique video monitor that can follow faculty members around the room as they teach. “It gives teachers a degree a freedom to instruct in hybrid situations and interact with students.” The atelier can be adapted in many ways. The presentation on May 3 featured four learning stations: an annotation station where you can leave your mark via digital annotations or sticky notes; a video pedagogy space where you can play around with video coaching teachers, and the like; a station inspired by the theory of The Hundred Languages of Children where people can also think about the theory of The Hundred Languages of Adults; and, a station about uncovering student thinking which includes art supplies and musical instruments.
The program ended as Reed Martin talked about how Kantor lives on in attributes seen in their granddaughter Colette. He mentioned that it is very evident that Colette has Rebecca’s determination, social skills, and activity level. He cut the ribbon to the atelier with large scissors as Chancellor Marks formally dedicated the space as the Rebecca Kantor Digital Atelier.
Family members and all attendees found the room fascinating and attractive. Reed Martin mentioned that Kantor would have loved the room. Kantor’s son Evan summed up the family’s reaction perfectly: “[The atelier] really brings some of my mom’s ideas to fruition. The space will facilitate growth in people. And at her core, growth is what she was all about.”