The Real Housewives of Benton County Present:Heather Wilson-Volunteerism-Walking the Walk

Heather and I during my Jr. year of high school. Heather lived in Portland at the time, and she always made the 5 hour trip home to show me support in whatever I was doing. She has always put her family first. (Oh, and Angie, do you like that you are in this picture :)).

Heather and I in our much younger days. I thought that she was so cool (don’t worry, I still do).

Heather and her 3 kids Max, Kira, and Devin.

The whole fam

My sister Heather doesn’t live in Benton County, but she does live just one county away in Eugene. I am going to start featuring more people outside of Benton County as I have inspiring women in my life from all over.  I love this sister of mine.  Pretty much everyone who meets my sister Heather loves her. She is oh so silly and one of the most sincere and generous people that I know. There are so many things that make her unique and special, but this week, I would like to focus on the active role that Heather plays in her children’s education. While there are many parents out there who are dissatisfied with our education system or local schools, Heather is one of those people who gets out and makes a difference instead of complaining.  I contacted Judy Davies,a  friend of Heather’s and teacher to her children, and I was in tears when I read all of the beautiful things that she had to say about my sister. I know that I could have edited what Judy said more, but I am going to post most of what she said, because it just really touched me. Enjoy Judys’ comments and the following interview with Heather.


I wish I could articulate how much Heather  has meant to me over the three years I’ve known her.  I just got teary thinking about it now. Seriously.
I try to think of my self as a passionate teacher, but when I watch your sister interact with kids teaching art lessons each Friday I am humbled by how much I have to learn from gentle souls like her.  She has an instant way of building rapport with the students she works with each year by the respect she gives each child as she interacts with them during the time she spends in our class.  She is so gentle and considerate always recognizing strengths in each child and genuinely praising their efforts.
She continually comes up with innovative art lessons that inspire students to create beautiful works of art (vs. craft , cookie cutter art). She excels in the planning, organization and ability to engage students in the art lessons each time.  Yet she is continually down on herself about not being organized enough, or ….and so on.  I’ve seriously tried to talk her into going back to school to get a teaching credential and join us in our efforts to make changes for the better.
Heather puts a lot time and energy into the incredible volunteer work she does at our school.  Actually, it’s more like countless hours helping at McCornack.  In our class alone she teaches the one hour Friday lesson which if you include the prep, generous donations of art materials used, lesson taught, clean up and display of finished art work. I would guess it would be more like three hours in my class easily every Friday.  Now multiply that by three counting in Max’s and Kira’s class.   She also volunteers in ALL school projects like our school play (painting sets), attending Site council once a month and PTO meetings once a month,  as well as helping with our school garden.  Most recently she helped our class by painting our class plate on one side with her incredible talent and she had the class paint the other side with their thumb prints (which got turned into garden bugs or animals).  The plate sold for $85 at our most recent PTO auction night.  I just wish I had the money to buy the plate and gift it right back to her for all the hours she put into that beautiful creation.  She did this for the 5th grade plate as well and that plate sold for way more.  It had a Wizard of Oz theme.  I told you countless of hours.  I am sure I am leaving out other ways she is involved in at the school level.
At home, well don’t even get me started there.  Any time I have ever dropped in on her for what ever reason, their home always looks like an inviting kid friendly place to be where there are board games  out, art projects worked on at the kitchen table, creations one of the kids are in process of completing, a play production the whole lot is involved in or a number of kid friendly activities.  Pets here and there and everywhere.  Kid art work displayed proudly all over the home.  I sadly do not remember that growing up for me.  My mom had to have a “place for everything” and kid art work or creations never had a place on our walls.  Getting off track.  Oh well.  Just tried to make a point of what a happy place she creates to walk into.  One wants to stay.
A final thought about your sister and what a humanitarian she is through and through.  Her willingness to help this one particular young student in 3rd grade right now is touching.  She meets with this third grade boy 3 or 4 mornings a week and works with him on his reading skills.  She deeply cares about this child and has made it her mission to get to know what he loves and what his interests are so that she could engage a spark for reading in him.  You need to be looking in her eyes when she talks about this young man.  I love seeing him through her eyes.
I did not even touch on the help she gives Devin with his reading efforts or all his homework weekly.  Again times three.  She volunteers on field trips, prep for trips and scholarship contributions for those who are unable to contribute.  At the beginning of the year with Kira and this year with Devin she donated multiple times more than what is requested for one child to help those who are less able to bring in school materials, stamps, field trip $ etc.  Overwhelmingly generous with her time, talents, passions and funds. There are so many deeds she has done where she does not want the person to know the source of a “gift”, weather it is time, resources, or other.  I am delighted in having a few minutes to think about your sister and all she does for others.   The quote below really fits your sister:

“You  have  not  lived  until  you  have  done  something
for  someone  who  can  never  repay  you.”
By  John  Brunyan


And now, on to my interview with Heather:

Kara-You spend a ton of time volunteering in your kid’s classes, and it seems like you spend a good portion of that time doing art. Why art?
Heather-  I teach art because I love art, and I love being creative.  When Max started first grade (5 years ago) I really wanted to be able to spend time in the classroom helping.  I started by volunteering doing other things and I saw how much teachers have on their plates and I knew that art takes a lot of timing preparing and so I asked his teacher if I could plan some art lessons, and I found my volunteering.  For the last five years I have taught art in many classrooms and I teach weekly in a couple.

Kara-What are a couple of examples of art projects that you have done with the kids?
Heather-  I love using children’s literature as an inspiration.  There are endless projects using authors like Eric Carle, Dr. Seuss, Mercer Meyer, and Ezra Jack Keats to name a few.  I also like choosing an artist researching how to present them in an age appropriate way.  I try to choose very diverse artists and draw out what I know the kids can relate to.  When teaching about color I will teach about Picasso and his blue period and I will also do a lesson on Dr. Seuss’s My Many Colored Days and we will talk about color and emotions. I start every year off with the book  The Dot, by Peter H. Reynolds.

Kara-How do you receive ideas and inspiration for ideas of what projects to do with the kids?
Heather- In the last few years I have really been inspired by the growing Latino population at our school.  I have been doing really fun Dia de los Muertos projects with numerous classes in the school and then setting up an exhibit.  I focus on the cultural part of the holiday and there are always kids that love sharing what their families do during this time.
I also see what subjects the teachers are teaching and I find ideas this way.  Last year in Kira’s  2nd grade class they were learning about Africa, and so we did a batik project and a made masks.

Kara-As most parents are busy and have limited time to help out at their children’s schools what are some simple suggestions of ways parents can play an active role in their children’s education?
Heather-  Read to your kids and with your kids even when they can read themselves.  I can not tell you how many times I am reading picture books with Devin and all of the sudden Max and Kira appear.  Good literature can create amazing and creative imaginations.  Conversations that I have had with my kids that come from reading are PRICELESS.
Find a place in the school to volunteer.  I have a girlfriend who does not really enjoy other peoples kids and so she shelves library books.  There is a place for anyone who is willing to help.  I would bring in my youngest, Devin, for two years before he started kindergarten. He loved sitting with the students and doing the art projects.  It is so great being in the school and seeing the environment that my kids spend many hours in.  Talk to the teachers because there are things you may even do from home to help.  Schools and teachers need help more then ever.

Kara-What else are you passionate about?
Heather- My family and community.  I love working with kids.

Kara-On a totally random note, you are one of the only people that I know who still always buys complete albums (on cd). Why not just download a few songs from itunes like many people do?
Heather- Yes I love buying cds.  I love music so much and there are albums that I have bought where the more I listen to certain songs the more I love them and they are often not the “most downloaded” songs.  There are very few albums I have wished I had just bought a couple of the songs.

Kara-What brings you peace and happiness
Heather-  I am most at peace when I am fully present.  It is so easy for me to get distracted but I find that I am most happy when I show up fully and not just pretending to be listening to a child, but instead thinking of what I will make for dinner.  Other things that bring me happiness are being with family and friends and colors and smells.

Kris - June 29, 2011 - 8:01 am

I logged on to get “the pancake recipe” and found this gem. Heather you are an inspiring artist in every sense…you approach every role from mothering to sisterhood in a thoughtful and creative way. You are a great role model for me and I aspire to enjoy life, family, and friends more because of you.

Monique - June 29, 2011 - 9:30 am

As I’m dabbing tears and reminiscing of times with this beautiful woman, my chest swells with pride to be able to call her one of my dearest friends. We love you Miss Heather! (and we love your blog Kara! xoxoxo Mo & Elias

Niki - June 29, 2011 - 9:51 am

This was so much fun to read!!! I don’t get to see the everydays of Heathers life, I knew she volunteered and was an incredible mother, but it is so fun to read such incredible remarks from someone, I am proud to be her sister! This really made me want to come home…

Elisa - June 29, 2011 - 11:06 am

Kara, maybe I have met Heather once. But this just shows me what amazing parents you have! I am so inspired by Heather and her words about being “fully present” really hit home. So often I find myself saying “really… oh wow” and not really meaning it..because my mind was in a different place.

Sunny - June 29, 2011 - 2:17 pm

When a teacher gets a parent like this, it is a truly wonderful gift. I was blessed to have a couple during my teaching years and their help was priceless!

kara - June 29, 2011 - 2:38 pm

I look forward to interviewing you this summer, and did you end up making the pancakes??
I have lovely memories of you and Heather together.
Come home :).
You did meet Heather when you threw that baby shower for me at your house. My brain is so in a fog right now, so living in the present is something I really need to work on.
You would be a fun teacher to work with!

Kim - June 29, 2011 - 5:30 pm

She is great;)

Shelli - June 29, 2011 - 7:49 pm

I too admire Heather so much! Whenever I think of someone who has mastered peace (both internal and external), Heather has always come to my mind.

Heather Wilson - June 30, 2011 - 12:31 pm

Thank you for the loving comments. Kara you were tricky to get Mrs. Davies on this. I am blessed that I have the time to be able to volunteer.

Angie - July 3, 2011 - 8:43 pm

Kara I just saw this….wow, I have a big boob.

kara - July 3, 2011 - 10:07 pm

Haa… I didn’t even notice your “big boob.” You are hot Angie :)!