For most of her working life, Ellen Olson’s passion has been to provide young children with a solid educational foundation. A Philadelphia native, Olson, 60, relocated to Baltimore from Richmond, Va., 30 years ago to take over as associate director of the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC’s early childhood program. During that time, thousands of kids have come through program, including her two own daughters and now two grandchildren.
You have been at the JCC since 1986. What’s it been like?
It’s been amazing. I always say I’m like Cal Ripken, but that’s the beauty of the longevity —children who were 3 years old when I started are now bringing their 3-year-old children. That is so exciting, because you remember them as a 3-year-olds, and now here are their families, which all makes it really worthwhile. I get to see them grow up and see what fabulous parents they are, but it’s also great to see that the “J” meant something to them.
How did the job affect the way you raised your own children?
The way I did things raising children is different than the way it is now. It doesn’t mean it is better or worse, but it’s just different. Now that I’m a bubbie, many people have said to me here, “You know, we’re happy a bubbie is helping run this school.” They like the fact that bubbies are running this school, because we have been there and done that. We can help them see the light at the end of the tunnel. Raising my two kids — luckily they have been successful — I’m able to bring that experience to new parents. I think they like and just feel I have that experience.
Are there any memories that stick out in particular?
I lived in this community for most of my working life, so there are many things that come to mind. [Somebody will] holler “Mrs. Ellen” or “Ellen,” and my friends will say, “Ah, another friend of Ellen’s.” The JCC is so far-reaching that I have 1,000 memories of being somewhere and being able to re-meet a child who went to school here, who’s now being bar and bat mitzvahed, who’s now off to college, who’s now getting married or having children.