After three decades of teaching preschool in Cloverdale, Feiza Maidens must move on.
Cloverleaf Montessori Preschool has operated out of Bell Hall in West Cloverdale since 1989. But after its tenancy was terminated by Christ the Redeemer Church in late January, Maidens was forced to try and find a new home for her school.
Now, after months of searching to find an alternative place to lease, Maidens has made the decision to close Cloverleaf and continue her teaching practice in Fleetwood.
“I had to make a decision. Before you know it, it will be September,” she said.
It was an emotional decision for Maidens, who has spent 30 of her 37 teaching years in Cloverdale, and 26 of those at Cloverleaf in Bell Hall.
“It’s come to an end for me. It’s emotional for me,” Maidens said, tears in her voice. “But it is what it is. Why am I emotional? It’s because I’m leaving Cloverdale.
“It’s just hard.”
The support she received from parents of her students over the past few months has been overwhelming. “It really touched my heart,” said Maidens. “It made me feel that they really value what I do.”
One of the parents, a real estate agent, searched “tirelessly” for a new location for Cloverleaf. They would tour new locations on a daily basis, said Maidens, and they came close to success several times. The City of Surrey licensing officers were also very generous, she said, coming out to locations quickly and telling her what would be needed.
In the end, they could not find a location that had a suitable outdoor play area, and they were unable to sign for a new lease.
But Maidens is still grateful — to the parent who helped find potential locations, to the City licensing officers, to her co-worker and friend Antje Rosler for assisting her during the search, and to her family for supporting her as she spent long days away from home looking for a new Cloverleaf location.
Other parents wrote to city officials and local politicians, asking for their support. Still more sent Maidens encouragement via email. Since she made the announcement that she will be closing Cloverleaf and continuing on with a different Montessori school, she has been receiving reference letters from parents. “I can’t even read them, I start crying,” she said.
As her preschool students see their parents supporting her, they too offer helping hands.
Last Wednesday, she told her students she would be leaving Bell Hall. The children were sad she was leaving, but happy she would still be “Miss Feiza” and continue teaching. “One of them said to me, I’ll come and help you pack,” Maidens remembered, laughing. “I’m getting that a lot from the children.”
She struggled to explain to her students why she couldn’t stay in the building. As detailed in a Cloverdale Reporter story in late March, the lease termination was made due to “significant deterioration of the building,” as determined by the church that owns the building. Maidens disputed the degree of deterioration, and was not allowed access to the inspection report that the church said catalogued unsafe elements. Her request to extend her lease to allow her more time to find another location was denied.
Maidens was frustrated with the process, but is now doing her best to move forward.
“It is what it is, we need to move forward,” she said. Maidens also wants to show her students that “change is a part of life, and we accept it.”
Maidens will be joining the team at North Fleetwood Montessori School. She said she was extremely grateful for the school owner, Winsy Lam, who has welcomed her “with open arms.”
“She’s given me autonomy in continuing what I do and what I believe,” she said. “She has been very accommodating to what I wanted, which has made me feel I can be here, I can be happy. I can do what I believe in.”
Maidens does not know what her future may hold, or whether Cloverleaf will ever return in the future.
For now, she will continue to do what she loves best: teaching.