As a young girl, Lorraine Meinke had a zest for learning. School was a joy for her and she quickly resolved that she wanted to be a teacher someday. As a teacher, she wanted to reach the youngest children, kindergarten to third graders, whose attitudes toward learning were just beginning to form. Throughout her 80 years of life, she never veered from that mission.
She helped shape the lives of young children in the Amherst Central School District for 35 years, teaching at both Eggert Road and Windermere Boulevard Schools. Even retirement in 1991 could not stop her as she continued to interact with Amherst students as a substitute teacher for another 11 years.
Ms. Meinke, who was known as Lorrie, died peacefully at DeGraff Memorial Hospital on May 23, 2016. She left Windermere Boulevard Elementary School a $40,000 bequest which has been used to make improvements to the building’s library media center. The renovations were revealed during the Oct. 3 Amherst Board of Education meeting at 7 p.m. in the Windermere Boulevard library.
“She cared deeply about the school. She was passionate about learning and the arts. She so very graciously allowed us to plan this awesome space for learning and collaborating,” said Mary Lavin, principal of the Early Childhood Education Center at Windermere.
Improvements in the library include new carpet and paint. The existing shelving was left intact. New furniture in the space allows students and teachers to easily pull chairs into small groupings. Three new visual display areas allow for technology integration for classes or community meetings. The Innovation Center, a designated space within the library, will have iPad stations, a green screen and furniture pods so groups of four students can be plugged into the same visuals. “These improvements will allow teachers to use technology to create and document learning,” said Mrs. Lavin.
The library improvements would have pleased Ms. Meinke, according to Susan Clark, a teacher assistant who worked with her for five years and knew her for many years through church and the community.
“She would have loved it. When Lorrie taught, there was the lesson, a craft and a song and everything went together,” said Mrs. Clark, who has worked for the district for more than 30 years. “She used filmstrips with her lessons, so she would have loved the media part of all the library renovations. I’m sure she would think this was a wonderful legacy for her.” Mrs. Clark recalled that Ms. Meinke would always ask “How’s Windermere?” when they would see one another at church.
Born in Buffalo on July 27, 1935, to Harold Meinke and Marie DeWolff Meinke, she grew up playing board games and puzzles with her dad, cooking and sewing with her mom, and, like her father, playing the piano, violin and organ. She excelled academically and musically in high school and college.
She graduated as valedictorian from Kensington High School in 1952. She enrolled in an accelerated college elementary education program and graduated three years later, summa cum laude. She earned a master’s degree in elementary education with a concentration in administration and supervision, but she never wanted to pursue administrative work. Instead, she wanted to continue working directly with students. After her parents died, she moved into Asbury Pointe at the age of 68. She enjoyed the activities of the retirement community and once told a staffer of Asbury Pointe, “The residents of Asbury have been like a family to me – as well as people along the way who have touched my life. I’ve been blessed and appreciate all I had in my lifetime.”
She was a loved and respected member of Zion United Church of Christ in Tonawanda.
Here are photos from the dedication on 10/03/2017: (click on images for full view)