It’s not every day you get to meet a bonafide Baby Whisperer. At the Stroum Jewish Community Center’s Early Childhood School, we’ve been lucky to have had our own Baby Whisperer on staff for the past 30 years.
Ask any parent whose child has been in Elaine Soeun’s class, and they’ll point to her calm, soft-spoken nature and her unmatched ability to soothe and connect with the children in her care. “She truly loves each and every child as if they were her own,” said Carrie Stull, Director, Early Childhood.
Elaine has worked with children in several of our younger age groups over the years, but she was always drawn to working with infants. “I love that you can watch them go through so many stages of development within a very short amount of time,” she said.
Her baby whispering skills extend beyond the children in her classroom to impact their parents as well. Jessica Duitch recalled bringing her three-month-old daughter, Charley, to the J for the first time as “the scariest thing I’ve ever done.” But the moment she entered her daughter’s classroom and met Elaine, a sense of calm washed over her—a feeling she was lucky enough to have again a few years later when her younger son was in Elaine’s class too. “Elaine was the reason I was able to drop off my kids at three months old and not worry about going back to work. I knew they’d be taken care of.”
Elaine also took care of Leigh Anne Kiviat’s three sons, and she echoed Jessica’s sentiment. “Knowing my babies were with Elaine each day made such a difference for us. They were loved, safe, hugged, and happy—no parent could ask for anything more,” she said.
This feeling of calm is something Elaine has also helped foster in generations of ECS teachers, said Associate Director Tara Bloomer, who worked with Elaine for over 12 years. “She has been such a role model for all of us for what it looks like to have endless patience and how to remain calm even when eight infants need something at the same time,” Bloomer said.
Just after her retirement in April, Elaine was honored with the Mercer Island Preschool Association’s 2019 Exceptional Educator Award, which is presented to an individual who has made extraordinary contributions to the city’s preschool community. Her legacy continues in the lives of the hundreds of children and families she has impacted over the years.
“I’ve loved getting to know so many lovely families over the span of my career,” Soeun said, and she especially loves seeing children who’ve graduated from her class—many of whom are adults now with their own children who attend ECS. “When they come up to give me a hug, some of them are taller than me now!”
As she heads into retirement, Elaine is looking forward to spending more time with her family, catching up on TV shows, and traveling around the world. The J community has been truly enriched by having Elaine on our staff, and we’re extremely proud of the work she’s done—she’ll be missed!