February 15, 2012

The Best Kept Secret at Friends' School

Friends' School librarian deana harragarra
waters and her daughter Regina at the
end of the Tinker Bell 1/2 Marathon
Before I arrived at Friends' School last summer, I had heard it referred to as ‘the best kept secret in Boulder’.  Our plan is that, through our increased marketing and web presence, this is no longer the case.  However, I have a story to tell you about ‘the best kept secret at Friends' School’.

deana harragarra waters does not often arrive at or leave school during the hustle and bustle of the start and end of the school day.  As our school librarian and elementary technology teacher, she spends a great deal of time with all our elementary students.  She is also the driving force behind the school’s spelling and geography bees.  One fifth grade parent just told me how thrilled she is that her son has learned so much world geography with deana.

In December 2010, deana underwent major back surgery to halt the deterioration of cartilage between her spinal discs.  One year ago this week, she was in such pain that one of our students found her lying flat under her desk.  I have her permission to pass on that deana is in her later fifties.  Major back surgery is not easy to recover from.

Major back surgery had not met anyone like deana.

Raised in her Kiowa culture across Oklahoma, deana grew up in a close-knit family. She was strongly influenced by her grandparents, both born in the 1890s, who loved books and reading.  As a child, many of deana’s friends’ parents were illiterate.  At home, her family saved money to buy books which were their prized possession. deana grew up to become an attorney practicing Federal Indian Law and was appointed as a judge to the federal courts in Oklahoma.  She later became director of the National Indian Law Library here in Boulder.

After her back surgery, deana wanted to prove to herself that she could be active again.  She likens her outlook on recovery to her belief about reading. “If you know how to read and you don’t read, it’s the same as not being able to read.”  She says it’s the same thing about her body.  “No matter what age you are, it’s important to be active and use your body.” 

So she did.

Despite her hardship and ongoing pain, deana began training for a half-marathon in July of 2011.  She entered this January’s inaugural Tinker Bell Half Marathon at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, which is geared toward women runners.

Her oldest daughter, Regina, ran with her.  Regina has arthritis in her right knee and deana has arthritis in her lower spine. Together, she says, they made up Team Arthritis.  She’s adamant about keeping her family as active as possible for as long as possible.

deana and Regina donated their entire entry fee, as well as additional funds the pair raised, to Special Olympics, because her nephew was a participant in it for many years.  Special Olympics provided Disneyland tickets and racing singlets and support along the route.  deana enjoyed meeting some of their athletes and taking group pictures with them.  

Thirteen members of deana’s family accompanied them to Anaheim for the race. For some, it was the first time they ever flew in an airplane or visited Disneyland.  Two days prior to the trip, her 82 years old Mother was diagnosed with cancer.  She made the trip anyway.  

deana and her daughter cut 27 minutes from their previous half marathon time.  She high-fived (or, as she says, high-foured!) Mickey Mouse as she crossed the finish line and proceeded directly to the medical tent for ice.  She says her sister and her niece are now determined to run in a half marathon. She’s so proud to be encouraging others to be active.

deana has been at Friends’ School for twelve years.  She contributes much of her success in the run to support and encouragement from her colleagues at school. She says Meg Hansen encouraged her to set a goal of running a half marathon and Ann Reid held her accountable every day for her training. She made the choice to be a children’s librarian because of her love of kids and her grandparents’ enormous influence on her reading as a child.  We are lucky to have her and all of us at Friends’ are so very proud of her accomplishments.

1 comment:

Christie Stanford said...

deana--you're an inspiration! Thank you for sharing your story. Also, it is a great reminder that while it "takes a village to raise a child", grown-ups need a village too. Thanks Friends' School for being a village for all!