Jane Taylor donates $1 million for an early childhood development center at Longwood University

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Some of Jane Taylor’s earliest faith formation took place in close proximity to the heart of the Catholic Church in Rome. She spent three years in Naples, Italy, when her father was stationed there in the Navy. She made her first Communion with a bishop and was confirmed by a cardinal. She had the opportunity to attend a private audience with Pope Pius XII along with the other Navy wives and children. “As an 8- or 9-year-old it made a huge impact,” she said. The pope died soon after and Taylor remembers the church bells ringing for 24 hours.

Her faith remained strong through the years until the death of her son, Andy, when he was 13 months old. “I couldn’t understand how this could happen to someone who was innocent,” she said. When her daughter was born two years later, Taylor said it renewed her faith. “God gave me a miracle.”

Her faith led her to the preschool at St. John the Apostle Church in Leesburg following 20 years as a middle and high school administrator.

“Sixteen years ago I was running on a bike path when suddenly I had a revelation. I heard a voice in my head telling me to apply for the director of St. John the Apostle Preschool,” she said. “The voice was clear and loud and I had no doubt that it was God.  I knew I had a new calling in life. Sixteen years later, I’m still at the preschool helping our children develop a love of our faith.”

Taylor is the preschool director at St. John the Apostle Church, with 71 preschoolers and a staff of seven. The job has strengthened her faith even more. “We are able to instill faith in the way public schools can't,” she said.

Taylor chose to work in education because teachers made a difference in her life and she wanted to make a difference in the lives of other children.

“When I see the excitement on children's faces for the things we do it really touches me,” she said.

Looking for a way to honor her son and to help others, Taylor recently committed $1 million to establish an early childhood development center at Longwood University in Farmville. She graduated from the university in 1971. The Andy Taylor Center for Early Childhood Development will open in August.

“As an educator, I chose Longwood’s early childhood development center because of the positive impact it will have on children of the community for years,” she said.

It will provide cutting-edge early childhood education to the children of the college staff, as well as those in the community. The center will employ the Reggio Emilia method of instruction, which encourages children to explore their environment and express themselves in a variety of ways, including through art, drama, dance and sculpture, according to a press release about the center. The “cutting edge” approach appealed to Taylor and she said it seemed a perfect fit for honoring her son.

“My faith made me a stronger person after his death,” she said. “I wanted the sadness of his death to result in positive experiences for others who were less fortunate than we were. We teach charity and giving hope to others.”

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017

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