Karen Gerton lives in a time warp of sorts.
As director of B’nai Israel Congregation’s Schilit Nursery School for the last 25 years, she says that though she gets older, the kids do not.
She always works with preschoolers ages 15 months through 5 years.
“The kids are the same. They come in with smiles and are happy and love to be here,” Gerton said.
B’nai Israel honored Gerton with a March 8 celebration attended by more than 350 people that included entertainment by comedian Kevin Meaney.
“It was an overwhelming experience,” Gerton said of the celebration. “ My whole life converged.”
Gerton said the biggest surprise of the evening was the people who came representing families from her 25 years at the school.
She started at the Rockville nursery school in 1989, teaching 3-year-olds three days a week. After seven years, the director retired and she applied for the job because she said it was something she wanted to do eventually and she didn’t know when the opportunity would come up again.
When she took over, there were 55 children in the program, all in half-day classes.
Now there are 120 students in programs ranging from parent-child classes to pre-K classes for 4- and 5-year-olds.
The school, Gerton said, is a place of community for the students and their parents.
“It’s a community where [parents] meet people and establish friendships,” she said. “A common theme is they met friends and stayed friends. It warms my heart when people say that.”
After 25 years, Gerton said she has no plans to retire. The celebration in her honor is an example of why she stays.
“It was wonderful,” she said, “It touched my heart. That’s why I don’t leave. As much as I love being here, they love me too.”