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Comments from Educators

I deeply honor and respect the integrity and respect Ellee displays in her interactions with the children and staff, and value the acceptance and self-responsibility she models in her relationships—on the mat and off. I observe the children increasingly want to "play" with her and most of them readily uphold the inclusive and non-competitive parameters of "play" and assist in set-up and breakdown.  I've watched the culture around "playing" on the mat grow into one fully owned and lead by the children, where I observe them tracking Ellee's activities in order to know when they can "play." They ask about her when she's not here, wanting to "play", and I can see I would like the staff to have some training with her to enable us integrate the work more into our ongoing curriculum. In my opinion, all these observations show the positive impact Ellee and her work have brought to our program.

— CATHERINE WYATT, Director, Gazebo School at Esalen Institute, Big Sur, CA


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In the four years since the Play Program began at the school in October of 2003, our play
specialist Eleanor Cyrce has worked a total of 9,000 sessions with children at The
Magnolia School (225 sessions per month for 30 months = 9,000). Because each child
has different needs, the session times vary per child. The time for Play is invaluable
because it may often be the one time in a day that a child gets complete focused attention from an adult. In this relationship, Eleanor allows the child to express his or her feelings In a healing and therapeutic way. Its aim is to give children the courage to be kind and safe in all situations. Some of the children start out acting aggressively, but with time, perhaps only a few minutes, their play style changes, and their pattern of interaction shifts from violence to affection. They are more flexible and open, and also much calmer.
Because of the Play program our students are now initiating and enhancing group play in ways that allow them to support one another, to maintain a peaceful school atmosphere, and to foster greater academic productivity

OLIVIA JAMES, Former School Director, 2007 

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I should like to inform you of the unusual abilities of Eleanor Cyrce to relate to and communicate effectively with children.  I have been privileged to observe her on numerous occasions with groups and also individual children.  She appears to have a magnetic draw to them, which appears to be effortless on her part.  Even at times with no verbal exchange, I have witnessed her establish a strong bond with a little one too young to speak, but whose body language was evidence of the relationship.

— ROBERTINE CARLETON, County Coordinator, Programs for Gifted Children
    K-12th Grade, Palm Beach FL

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Eleanor comes once or twice a month to play with the children during their P.E. class.  She has also volunteered many, many afternoons to play with the children who stay for after-school care. She begins by reminding them that anything that hurts is not play, then she takes them one-by-one onto the mats and follows their lead.  Some of the children come out very aggressive, but over time – and sometimes after only a few minutes of play – their bodies soften.  Their pattern of interaction shifts from violence to experience-sharing.  They are more flexible and open, and also much calmer.  Often, when Eleanor plays with a child, it looks like a couple of puppy dogs or lion cubs are rolling around on the mat.  But something almost magical is happening.  A crowd of the littlest students flocks to Eleanor whenever she steps on the playground.  Our autistic children have started smiling and interacting with their peers.  Big, angry boys who have spent all of their school years fighting ADHD-related demons jump at the chance to play with her.  And since the first time a very aggressive boy played with Eleanor, he has never hurt another child.

— PAIGE BREY, The Magnolia School, Tallahassee FL

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I have known and worked professionally with Eleanor Cyrce for 18 years. Eleanor is a remarkable person with a gift for working with children. It is hard to explain what she does without actually watching her. She is very sensitive to their needs and makes them feel safe and cared for. When Eleanor enters a room, she has a way of making children feel relaxed and safe and they are happy to see her. She truly cares about children and her work goes to the source of many of our societal problems.

— IRWIN FRIEDMAN, Director, Full Flower Education Center,
    K-8 School, Tallahassee FL

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Upon seeing Eleanor’s gentle and ever positive interactions with our children, I was immediately impressed. Even while working with our toughest students, Eleanor remains enthusiastic and solution-focused. Seeing students open up to Eleanor and engage with her on the mats is remarkable. Eleanor focuses on each child’s individual spirit and they each display a unique connection with her when they are working together. She has met with me on several occasions to focus on positive solutions where a student is acting out or not connecting with peers. She is inquisitive and asks thought-provoking questions in a way that allows us to see issues from different angles. Eleanor seeks out the students who could benefit from her the most and makes it a point to work with them, while not excluding the other students who are eager to work with her. Eleanor’s gentle enthusiasm and unwavering positivity makes me feel hope in situations that feel desperate.

NICOLE McDERMOTT, Former Director, 2019, The Magnolia School, Tallahassee FL

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