Longtime Gahanna preschool teacher trades lessons for relaxation

MARLA K. KUHLMAN
mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com
Becky Kidwell

After teaching children for the past 50 years, Gahanna's Becky Kidwell is putting away her school supplies and starting retirement effective Friday, July 31.

Kidwell, 67, has worked at the Stonybrook Church Early Learning Center the past 47 years and served as its director since 1980.

Prior to joining the preschool in January 1973 at Stonybrook, 485 Cherry Bottom Road, she worked three years at a daycare at the Olde Gahanna Sanctuary.

"I've basically completed 50 years working with young children," Kidwell said. "Ever since I was little, I knew that's what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to be a teacher. I do love children."

Kidwell, a 1971 Gahanna Lincoln High School alumna, said she never had biological children of her own but she considers the "thousands" of children she taught over the years as her children.

She said the preschool, which operates nine months out of the year, teaches about 225 students annually. The school offers half-day classes for ages 3-5 and has a staff of 15.

Kidwell said the school is open to the general community.

"We have a lot of people -- parents who went to preschool here -- and now they're sending their children. It's kind of interesting," she said.

She said one of the students she taught as a 4-year-old is now her podiatrist, Dr. Ralph J. Napolitano Jr.

"I've taught his children in preschool," Kidwell said. "He became a doctor and now he's my doctor. Life goes in full circle. You keep the child then they take care of you as a physician."

Kelly Ferguson, the Early Learning Center's assistant director, has worked with Kidwell for 10 years.

"She put her whole heart and soul into Stonybrook to make it the best preschool in Gahanna," Ferguson said.

Ferguson said receiving the traditional morning and afternoon hugs from the children have been Kidwell's favorite.

"She absolutely loved it," Ferguson said. "She loved coming in and seeing all the kiddos. She was a great boss, a good friend. She always made you feel good and important."

Whatever someone had to say, Kidwell took it with care and consideration, she said.

"She will be missed by the staff, me, kids and the parents," she said.

Kidwell said Stonybrook's first full-time minister, Gary Boucher, 82, suggested the preschool.

She said she first attended the church with her sister, Trudy Johnson, and their late parents, James and Julia Kidwell, who were charter members.

She said her father actually suggested the name Stonybrook due to its location near a bridge and creek.

Kidwell said her retirement goal is to learn to relax and take life easier.

A drive-by reception scheduled July 18 was canceled as a result of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Ferguson said a celebration to recognize Kidwell would be held in the future when it is safe to do so.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla