We had a celebrity visitor this week. It wasn’t Justin Bieber - to the chagrin of the girls in first and second grade. It wasn’t any of the many heroes that our students study each year. It was the extraordinary man for whom the school is named - Ronald C. Wornick.
Kindergarten had been anticipating this visit since the beginning of the year. During the first weeks of school, the kindergarten had been thinking about names and they had asked me at that time - who is Ronald C. Wornick? By the time Mr. Wornick appeared in their room (KA), they had a more nuanced question - "what does the ‘c’ stand for." Mr. Wornick told them (Charles) and then he sat down in teacher Gina’s rocking chair and read them a story.
There are many ways to read a story, and how that is done tells us something about the reader. Mr. Wornick read with excitement - as if he couldn’t wait to reveal a hidden mystery on each page. He read slowly - savoring the plot. He read pausing to show the children each page and letting them interject their ideas about what had happened or what was about to happen. He leaned in to engage all the children. As he walked out of the room with me, Mr. Wornick said "I’ve never seen so many beautiful little children who sat so attentively to listen to an old man read a story."
As we walked to the next class, Mr. Wornick took some time looking at the art work that graces our halls. He commented on some of the very complex designs and color choices, and took his time observing. He visited a first grade class while they were having their music lesson. He simply stood for quite some time watching the children practice their scales and their singing. (As music and support of the San Francisco Symphony are among Anita and Ron Wornick’s passions, they have underwritten our K-5 trips to the symphony.)
Finally, we ended up in the sixth grade science lab where one of our students was presenting his science fair project. In that class, the presenting student spent about ten minutes explaining his project to his peers and then all of the students engaged in a critique. Students asked the presenter probing questions about his variables, measurements, procedures and outcomes. And Mr. Wornick, an MIT trained scientist, joined the critique session encouraging the student to think more deeply about his variables (the disadvantage of using two variables instead of one). His critique, along with those of the sixth grader students’, was accepted as just a normal Wornick Jewish Day School experience.
Mr. Wornick concluded the visit with lunch together with the administrative team. There he asked questions about admissions, development and curriculum. His questions were thoughtful. For the administrators, there were two highlights. The first was a discussion about his recent interest in glaucoma research and the second was his story about the scientific breakthrough he achieved as a young man leading to his remarkable success as a scientist. These stories were not told to boast. They were revealed in the context of his questions to us about our middle school students’ science projects. The recurrent themes in each of the stories were insatiable curiousity, humility, persistence, and creativity - values that are the emphasis in our school. When we commented on how inspiring his story was, his response was "Find any old man and they will have interesting stories to tell." That is true and that offers further insight into this endearing man. His story is like others to be sure, but the layers of interests - art, music and science along with his extraordinary people skills and his tireless work in philanthropy makes this "old man" a very, very special person. For the entire Ronald C. Wornick Jewish Day School community, thank you Mr. Wornick.