Andrea Riddle
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Riddle, Andrea

Ithaca: Andrea Riddle, Founder of the Elizabeth Ann Clune Montessori School of Ithaca, died peacefully in her home on June 24, 2012 at age 55 after a year-long battle against lung cancer. Andrea will be forever remembered for her intuitive wisdom and her profound connections to others. She will be deeply missed by friends, loved ones, and the countless children educated at the school she founded.

Andrea was born on October 5,1956 in Brooklyn, New York. She grew up in Roslyn Harbor, New York, where she attended North Shore High School. She was the only daughter of Dan Blitzer and the late Shirley Blitzer.

Andrea first came to Ithaca in1974 to study music at Ithaca College. Her academic advisor, Prof. Emeritus Willard Daetsch, introduced her to the pedagogy of Maria Montessori, igniting a lifelong commitment to nurturing the minds and spirits of children.

In 1979, 23-year-old Andrea co-founded the Montessori School of Ithaca with Carol Hill. The school had an initial enrollment of nine students. The school moved to its current location on East King Road in 1988.

In 1998, the school was renamed to honor a student that Andrea called "her own personal angel." Three-year-old Elizabeth Ann Clune, a child with Down's Syndrome, was a student in Andrea's pre-school classroom. In her characteristically unorthodox way of approaching new experiences, Andrea taught Elizabeth using the same materials and practices as every other child in her classroom, making a conscious decision to ignore then-current thought on Down's syndrome and special education practices as a whole. Elizabeth thrived under Andrea's instruction and was a student at the school for the next 12 years. Andrea considered Elizabeth to be her best teacher. Andrea's relationship with Elizabeth proved to be a formative experience in her life as an educator. Andrea became passionately committed to educating all children--regardless of their personal strengths and weaknesses-- using the Montessori Method. Furthermore, she made inclusion a basic tenet of her school at a time when it was not a commonplace practice.

Andrea was tenacious in her belief that a Montessori school should reflect the basic principle of the Montessori Method: respect for the individual must be an integral part of every interaction and every experience. Furthermore, she was committed to raising children with the understanding that peace begins within, expressing that commitment by making peace education a curricular thread beginning at age 3. Andrea's vision of "high expectations and love" was the foundation of her peace curriculum, in stark contrast with current anti-bullying campaigns.

In the 2012-2013 school year, the Elizabeth Ann Clune Montessori School of Ithaca will enroll 218 students ranging in age from 3 to 14 years old. The incredible success and longevity of EACMSI can be attributed to Andrea's unique vision of what it means to be a school. Transcending more familiar concepts, Andrea's vision blurred the boundaries between school, extended family and community. When parents enrolled their children at EACMSI, Andrea made a commitment to embrace the family as a whole. A core group of founding faculty inspired by her vision have been working together for over 30 years to make it a lived reality. They remain at the school as a living legacy. As a result, EACMSI is a dynamic, deeply connected, and constantly evolving community of individuals who work together to inspire the best in all.

In 2004, Andrea became a consultant to The Dream Project, a nonprofit organization bringing quality early education opportunities to underserved children and youth in the Dominican Republic. With her guidance a Montessori school was created in the Haitian community Carabello Batey. Andrea generously donated Montessori materials and trained local women in the Montessori Method. Her first visit to the island was a life-changing experience for her, the children, and the teachers with whom she worked. The school was subsequently named in her honor. Dream Project Founder Tricia Suriel says, "because of Andrea's hard work, more than 2000 children on the North Coast of the Dominican Republic have benefited from Montessori programs over the last decade."

For the past three years Andrea worked closely with Suriel and the Mariposa DR Foundation to help implement Montessori adolescent methodology into educational programs for underserved Haitian and Dominican girls. Even in the last months of her life she advised Mariposa on Maria Montessori's vision for the adolescent: personal dignity, social justice, and belonging. Andrea remained passionate about this work until the end of her life. The Mariposa DR Foundation will dedicate this year's summer program to Andrea. A butterfly on the wall of a Cabarete school in the DR will be named to honor Andrea's spirit and her love for the Dominican and Haitian children.

Andrea married composer and filmmaker Ron Riddle in 1997. They created a magnificent home together in and around a farmhouse on Harvey Hill Rd., Ithaca. The Riddle house and grounds were a beautiful haven for friends and family. Andrea loved to host events on her property and marked each year with a cycle of rituals to celebrate each season and every holiday. Andrea nurtured friends and family by preparing them only the freshest and most succulent of foods. Andrea loved the natural world and found beauty in every facet of the cosmos. Her love of animals led her to adopt a previously unsocialized timber wolf named Chance from the S.P.C.A. in 1997. She and Ron spent years socializing Chance, experimenting with a multitude of techniques to acclimatize him to life alongside humans. Mimicking the behavior of a mother and her cub, Andrea chewed food for Chance and transferred it from her mouth to his in hopes that he would accept her as his mother! In time Andrea, Ron and Chance became what animal behaviorists call an "interspecies pack." In 2010 the Riddles-- and Chance-- were featured presenters at Light in Winter. A documentary, Living With Chance, was created by Ron for Light in Winter.

Andrea made a great impact on those who knew her. She was a confidant and mentor to a wide circle of friends and colleagues. She was exacting in her relationships and often brought others to see things about themselves that would otherwise have gone unnoticed. Andrea considered anyone she loved to be part of her chosen family. In return, she is held warmly in the hearts of hundreds of people. Andrea was an inspirational figure to many and will be profoundly missed.

Andrea moved through her illness as she did her life, with grace, integrity and vision. She gathered those closest to her and cocooned herself in the warmth and beauty of her home. Andrea felt blessed to have lived such a rich and full life, and to have made a difference to so many. She was immensely proud of the legacy she created at The Elizabeth Ann Clune Montessori School of Ithaca.

Andrea is survived by her husband, Ron, her father Dan, her brother Seth, and various nieces, nephews and cousins. Andrea loved her family and held her relationships with them sacred. She was very close with her brother Seth and her father, Dan. Ron was Andrea's devoted primary caretaker during the course of her illness.

The family is holding a private service. In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to The Elizabeth Ann Clune Montessori School of Ithaca. The school will hold a Memorial in Andrea's honor at a later date.


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Published in Ithaca Journal on Jun. 29, 2012.
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Memories & Condolences
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19 entries
July 25, 2012
My thoughts and prayers are with Andrea's family at this time. Her presence was magnificent and her positive influence on this planet will be experienced and appreciated for many generations. All of my love to the Montessori community as well. You are wonderful!
Ellen Campbell
July 23, 2012
What a loss! The world has one less loving person to help us conquer fear and hate. Her accomplishments speak of her wisdom more than words ever will.
Larry Humphries
July 20, 2012
So deeply sorry to read of Andrea's illness and passing. Blessings and comfort to those who knew, loved, and were warmly impacted by her commitment to teaching and education.
Dawn Roe
July 11, 2012
Beloved teacher of my son...valued mentor to me and my students...model of entrepreneurial educator and administrative peacemaker...

Thank You, Andrea....

David V. Williams
July 7, 2012
Proverbs 17:17 says, "A true companion is loving all the time, and is a brother that is born for when there is distress." May you find peace and comfort in your family and friends at this difficult time of loss.
July 4, 2012
Sorry to hear of this untimely passing. My thoughts at with the family. I have good childhood memories of our time together in elementary school.
Diane Westerback
July 4, 2012
It is hard to imagine saying either "Montessori" or "magic" without thinking of Andrea. When I first saw her teach I knew she had a special gift. And what she accomplished with it is truly remarkable. Her Montessori schools are her legacy, and I am proud to have shared with her the growing of the Elizabeth Ann Clune Montessori School of Ithaca. Andrea's insight and energy - yes, call it magic - graced so many lives. As educator and friend she will be sorely missed and fondly remembered.
Carol Hill Faber
July 3, 2012
Yit-ga-dal v'yit-ka-dash sh'mei ra-ba, (A-mein.)
b'al-ma di-v'ra chi-ru-tei, v'yam-lich mal-chu-tei
[ v'yats-mach pur-ka-nei, vi-ka-reiv m'shi-chei. (A-mein). ]
b'chai-yei-chon uv'yo-mei-chon
uv'chai-yei d'chawl beit Yis-ra-eil,
ba-a-ga-la u-viz-man ka-riv, v'im'ru: A-mein. (A-mein.)

Y'hei sh'mei ra-ba m'va-rach
l'a-lam ul'al-mei al-ma-ya. [ Yit-ba-rach ]

Yit-ba-rach v'yish-ta-bach,
v'yit-pa-ar v'yit-ro-mam v'yit-na-sei,
v'yit-ha-dar v'yit-a-leh v'yit-ha-lal, sh'mei d'ku-d'sha, b'rich hu, (b'rich hu) [Some Chassidic and Sefardic congregations say "A-mein"]
l'ei-la min kawl bir-cha-ta v'shi-ra-ta,
tush-b'chata v'ne-che-mata, da-a-mi-ran b'al-ma, v'im'ru: A-mein. (A-mein.)

Y'hei sh'la-ma ra-ba min sh'ma-ya,
v'chai-yim [ to-vim ], a-lei-nu v'al kawl Yis-ra-eil, v'im'ru: A-mein. (A-mein.)

O-seh sha-lom bim-ro-mav,
hu ya-a-seh sha-lom a-lei-nu v'al kawl Yis-ra-eil, v'im'ru: A-mein. (A-mein.)

Sit.



TRANSLATION OF RABBI DAVID WOLFE-BLANK (Z"L)

The great essence will flower in our lives and expand throughout the world.
May we learn to let it shine through so we can augment its glory.
We praise, we continue to praise, and yet, whatever it is we praise, is quite beyond our grasp of all these words and symbols that point us towards it.
We know, and yet we do not know.
May great peace pour forth from the heavens for us, for all Israel, for all who struggle toward truth.
May that which makes harmony in the cosmos above,
bring peace within and between us, and to all who dwell on this earth,
and let us say, Ameyn.
Ythsta Prather-Resovich
July 2, 2012
Andrea was my son's teacher -- the best teacher he ever had. Her passing is a terrible loss. Her work goes on and will honor her in perpetuity.
David Lehman
July 1, 2012
Andrea was a great mentor and a wonderful human being. She has inspired me in many ways whenever she has mentored me during my journey of teaching. I will always carry the knowledge that she has given me and she will always reside in my heart. The peace circle that I do with my children was shown to me by her, which I will continue to do forever. Andrea, " I offer you peace, I offer you Love, I offer you friendship". May your soul rest in peace.
Dipali Bhanushali
June 30, 2012
I came to know Andrea through my dear friend, Ron. With each and every visit, I could see the incredible blossoming of their life together. Each time more magnificent than the last. From the outside, their love and support of one another as individuals was palpable, as was the attention they gave to their relationship, the time and space they shared. This intangible abundance overflowed to those fortunate to be even a small part of their lives - like me. Being with Andrea, witnessing her life and work, her joy and determination was simply inspiring. Thank you, Andrea. God blessed us with you. May you now be with great peace.
Elizabeth Van Vleck
June 30, 2012
Ron, I did not know Andrea well enough to claim the privilege of being called a friend. But I liked her, have always kept her in my thoughts, and benefited from her kindness when I was going through some hard times, myself. Thank you, Andrea, for all the gifts you gave, and Ron, I will keep you in my heart, hoping for the easing of your loss.
Gillie Waddington
June 30, 2012
...This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine...This is how I remember Andrea...May you rest in peace.
Sabah Rafiq
June 30, 2012
My thoughts and prayers to you and your family. So sorry for your loss .
Micky Roof
June 29, 2012
So very sorry to hear of your loss, Ron (& family).
Julie Parker-Koslov
June 29, 2012
Andrea once told me to "walk toward health and trust that others will do the same", and it is so sad that she lost her health so young. She had faith in me, when I didn't have faith in myself. I already miss the feeling of knowing she was always there. My heart is broken. Beverly
Beverly Rollins
June 29, 2012
Andrea was one of our best friends since a long time. Kusum was already a Montessori teacher. She, Andrea and Carol Hill became good family friends. It's a great shocking news about her sad demise.Although she died at a very young age, she left behind her a legacy of one hundred years. We salute her. Dear Ron, Chance and other family members, we are with you for ever.
Kusum and Radhe Dave
June 29, 2012
May God bless you and your family in this time of sorrow.
Jeff Brown
June 29, 2012
Andrea was my sons first teacher, while she was still in training at the old Montessori School. He was 2. He was fortunate to be one of those nine original children in Andrea & Carol's new Montessori School, where he stayed until middle school.
Andrea was an exceptional educator and lover of children, and she was a gift to the Ithaca Community, who will be sorely missed.
My condolences to her family and all who loved her.
Stanley Zausmer
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