Sometimes you hear of people praising institutions as if they were people. Often it is the people or the person who deserve the praise. Rarely is it the person who is the institution.

On Tuesday night we lost one of those institutions with the passing of Nancie Boudreau. Nancie was the iconic owner and teacher at the Three Little Bears Nursery School in Brunswick.

Nancie and her team of teachers welcomed more than 5,000 children into Three Bears during her nearly 50-year career. Those children, many from Brunswick and the surrounding communities and still others from every corner of the country, could count on a loving and nurturing environment in which to play, learn and grow.

Nancie worked closely with her husband and best friend, Herman to produce a real family-oriented place for the children who came to the school. You could often find Pepere and Miss Nancie on the playground behind the school as children played games or sang or ran from here to there. Even though it was a great deal of work both of them loved it.

Once the news of Nancie’s passing was announced by her family social media became a sounding board for condolences and memories. Comments from former teachers with Nancie had stories to share. Former students commented that they had never forgotten Nancie and her lessons.

Three Little Bears was a classic preschool. Miss Nancie believed in preparing the youngsters in her midst with the building blocks to not only be good students, but be good people. One former teacher at the school said that one of the biggest lessons that were taught were manners. Children were taught how to be polite and how to appreciate what was before them.

The children also had fun. Kristen Snowdon, another teacher at the school, told me about the collection of Fisher Price toys that the children played with daily. For Kristen one of the best parts of teaching with Nancie was the unique mixture of warmth and rules. The children knew what was expected of them and they knew that Miss Nancie would help them along the way.

Another teacher Deanna Thibault, who worked with Nancie for 28 years, mentioned to me that Nancie was more than Three Little Bears. Nancie was a dedicated Girl Scout leader as well as community leader in her church. Deanna talked about a trip to New York City and the adventure that Nancie sought out. There was nothing that Nancie would not volunteer for or help with.

Deanna also mentioned the lengths that Nancie would go to recognize the students. Every year the school would have a graduation ceremony. Nancie knew the importance of making school a big deal. Nancie would arrange to have all of her graduating students in caps and gowns at the

ceremony in front of their parents. There the little graduates would be presented with a diploma as they would soon be ushered off to Kindergarten or First Grade.

Sandy Reynolds, or Miss Sandy as she was known by the children, was another teacher who spent 10 years working for Nancie Boudreau. Sandy told me about how Nancie made everyday a celebration. Whether it was “Backwards Day” or song day or a field trip that was organized, every day was meant to provide wonder and excitement for the students.

In some cases, Nancie provided the only opportunity for some students to see a world beyond their own yards or neighborhoods. Over the years Nancie organized trips to the Maine Wildlife Park. She organized Halloween parades and delighted in seeing the imagination of each student.

Sandy told me about a little girl who worked with Nancie for a year. During that year the little girl had not said a single work to anyone at the school. Over time, Nancie knew that the girl had much to say and worked with her every day. Finally, on the last day of school, at her graduation, the little girl turned to Nancie and said, “Thank you Miss Nancie.” Sandy explained that there were few dry eyes in the room that day because everyone knew what a big deal it was that this little girl had finally found the courage to speak out. And in that room, everyone knew that Nancie was the reason why the girl had courage.

To Nancie’s children, thank you for sharing such a wonderful woman with all of the students and parents that were fortunate enough to have her and the school in their lives. The impact that she had on our lives will never fully be known.

Some people are placed on this earth to be a mentor and teacher to children. Nancie Boudreau was one of those people. Nancie loved each and every child that came through Three Little Bears. Sandy Reynolds said it best to me, “She was a special lady and a friend to everyone.”

Jonathan Crimmins can be reached at [email protected]

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: