Gloria – How She Came to Be

So, how did Gloria the puppet become Gloria the person?

I know puppets help teach preschoolers.  Any good teacher knows that.  When I first realized that a puppet in the classroom would be a great teaching tool, I had no idea that it could be, or would be, so powerful in teaching both the children and me.  That was more than twenty-five years ago.

When I discovered Gloria among a collection of Folkmanis puppets, I knew she would ‘work’.  I have watched other teachers use multicultural puppets, but years ago we were not a very diverse community.  A three-year-old back then was not as likely to meet children or people from other countries or races.  BUT, they would meet old people, shy people, people with disabilities, or those who were not beautiful.  If my puppet represented the differences that preschoolers encountered, she would be far more effective than a multicultural puppet.  Accepting differences that are familiar to children is the first step to accepting global differences.  Learning is all about building blocks, and I had to start with something that was ‘different’.

When the children first met Gloria at Morning Meeting, she had her face smushed against the crook of my neck, and refused to say ‘hello’.  I talked with her, but I had no success.  So, I sighed and had a talk with the children:

“Gloria is very shy.  She’s really kind, but at the other school where she lived, they called her a witch.  At this point, Gloria whips her head out and says, “Yes they did!  Just because I like black and look old they called me a witch.  I have sticky-uppy-outy hair and wrinkly skin.  Oh, do you like my black hat?  And look at my striped socks.  Do you like them?”

Gloria stopped and looked at the children.  They were transfixed.  I asked children if they would like to greet Gloria, inviting each one up to shake her hand.  My assistant teacher interrupted with a big “Gloria!” and a long hug.  And so it began.  Children went from handshaking to hugs to talking directly to Gloria, eye-to-eye.  And now, every September Gloria greets children in the same way.

Gloria quickly developed a personality.  She was very shy, and often had to be coaxed.  She was silly, a good friend, and someone who always seemed to understand the Aqua Room children.  She had a way about her- children related to Gloria, and loved her.

For a number of years Gloria (named by the children, of course) lived in a picnic basket on top of my cabinets in the classroom.  She came out as part of our curriculum every month or so.  She was always a big hit, and very successful at introducing everything from emotions, to how to count, or sing the ABC’s.  Once a month, everyone loved Gloria.

One day, I forgot to put her back into the picnic basket.  She was on the little couch in the classroom.  I was busy in the classroom, not paying attention to Gloria or what was happening.  Children walked over to talk with her.  They brought her toys and held her.

“Jennie, I gave Gloria a bear.”

“Jennie, Gloria won’t talk to me.”

“Jennie, can I hold Gloria?”

This was a big wake-up call for me.  Why had I kept her in the picnic basket, when every ‘visit’ in the classroom was so successful and important?  I was not seeing Gloria as a person, and the children were.  Gloria continued to ‘live’ on the couch.

It gets better…

One day I took Colin to the bathroom at rest time, and he looked very pensive.

“Jennie, can Gloria come to my house for a sleepover?”

I wasn’t sure what to say, as this was a first.

“Colin, Gloria has never been on a sleepover.  I don’t know.”

“I have a night light.  She won’t be scared.”

“Colin, I don’t know.”

“Don’t worry.  I’ll have a talk with her.”

He did!  And Gloria was fine.

Three-year-old Colin

When Colin’s mother sent me this photo of Colin and Gloria, I asked her, “Beth, do you remember when Colin was the the first child to take Gloria home for a sleepover?

She answered, “Yes I do remember that, Jennie. He was so enamored by her. Took her home every weekend for a while until the other kids started getting wind of it and wanted to start taking her home too.”

Therefore, I started a Gloria journal.

Now, she was living on the couch, and was spending some weekends with children.  The journal was instrumental in recording Gloria’s adventures and making a bigger connection with both children and families.  If there was a fire in the school and I could only grab one artifact, it would be Gloria and her journal.

That year Erin took Gloria Trick-or-Treating.  Really.  Gloria was Minnie Mouse.  Her parents were a little annoyed that other neighborhood families Trick-or-Treating did not ‘get it’.

This is Gloria’s first journal, one of three
packed with stories and photos.

“Why is the witch dressed as Minnie Mouse?”, people asked them.  The family told me (with much frustration.)

“I kept telling them that she’s not a witch.  She’s dressed up for Trick-or-Treat as Minnie Mouse.  Why didn’t they understand?”

Ahh… Gloria is very real, indeed.

Did you know she and Milly the Quilter were best friends?  Gloria’s necklace came from Milly.  Spontaneously.  It was a ‘moment’.

Gloria has been to graduations, birthday parties, a concert in Boston, the Boston Red Sox parade, mountain climbing, Cape Cod… and her journals are living memories that children enjoy visiting.

Colin is now a senior in high school, and Gloria continues to give children love, hope, understanding, and great memories.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty-five years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I was a live guest on the Kelly Clarkson Show. I am highlighted in the seventh edition of Jim Trelease's million-copy bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital, and the Massachusetts State House in Boston.
This entry was posted in Diversity, Expressing words and feelings, Giving, Gloria, Inspiration, Kindness, Love, Teaching young children and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

62 Responses to Gloria – How She Came to Be

  1. willedare says:

    Oh, golly. These Gloria stories and lessons are the best! Thank you for sharing what you have learned — and continue to learn — in your classroom with the rest of us.

  2. beetleypete says:

    Your choice of Gloria was inspired, Jennie. One of the best ideas to ever happen in a school. Her years of success speak for themselves.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Pete. I have posted so many Gloria stories, and wanted readers to know how it started. That year was when our school gave ‘persona dolls’ to teachers, as a way introduce diversity. The stuffed dolls came in different cultures, and I was the only teacher who chose not to take a doll. It took some deep thinking, and I never planned on a witch (sorry, Gloria!) puppet, but the moment I saw her, I knew she could be ‘it’. Yes, she was a good choice. And the rest is history. Best to you, Pete.

  3. Thanks for telling about Gloria’s past, Jennie! She is fabulous and for sure a great compagnion now for generations of pupils. You really made a great choice welcoming her to your school. Best wishes, and enjoy your weekend! xx Michael

  4. This is so beautiful. You are a wonderful teacher. 🙏❤️

  5. barbtaub says:

    As always—tears and smiles. It’s not just preschoolers who live Gloria.

  6. I may be the one dissenting voice Jennie, but I’ve always thought Gloria had a scowl on.

  7. petespringerauthor says:

    Colin and Gloria will forever share their bond. I’ve enjoyed this story before, but I didn’t remember the photo of Millie and Gloria. How cool that these special characters came together!

    • Jennie says:

      Hi Pete, I have posted so many Gloria stories, but not a complete version of how she started. I knew you would be glued to her first introduction at Morning Meeting. Milly and Gloria…no wonder Milly gave Gloria her necklace. Their history is long and storied. And Colin…❤️

  8. beth says:

    I love learning about her backstory, gloria is such a gift to all

  9. Ritu says:

    I love Gloria! 💛🙏

  10. Norah says:

    What’s not to love? Gloria is a gem.

  11. I think the saying ‘the gift that keeps on giving’ was invented for Gloria. And good job Colin for starting off Gloria’s travels.

  12. What a great story, Jennie. It shows that learning is an evolutionary process and is very spontaneous. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Don Ostertag says:

    I am so glad she cane out of the picnic basket and into the little ones’ lives.

  14. Dan Antion says:

    Gloria has had an interesting life with you and your classroom. I love reading these stories.

  15. AmyRose🌹 says:

    Jennie, you truly are an inspiration. Every time I come here, I keep thinking how our teachers could very well benefit by learning from you. Thank you for posting this.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Amy!! I’ll be writing my stories of teaching over the years (including Gloria of course), in hopes of inspiring other teachers and parents.

  16. Annika Perry says:

    Wow! Jennie, I loved learning about Gloria’s first days and how you and the children brought her to life, brought her into your homes, life and ultimately your hearts! Incredible and kudos to you! ❤️

  17. quiall says:

    Gloria judges less and listens more, while maintaining a humanity. These are lessons that are difficult to learn.

  18. What a fascinating backstory, Jennie. Thanks.

  19. That teared me up a bit. Great story. Long may Gloria continue to give children love, hope, understanding, and great memories. 🤗

  20. Fabulous, Jennie, I love hearing about Gloria and her escapades.

  21. Darlene says:

    I enjoyed learning all about Gloria’s history. A perfect teaching aid.

  22. Gloria’s origin story is as heartwarming as the stories she continues to provide each day, Jennie!

  23. dgkaye says:

    Brilliant to adopt Gloria into your school family Jennie. She provides both lessons and entertainment. I wish some of my elementary teachers would have thought of something like Gloria. Hugs xx

  24. Carla says:

    I love it and I love that Gloria is real!

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