Instead of a garden party, some HLW Skypers members who were in Chicago for ISTE 2018, attended Memorial Service for Janet Barnstable and her husband Richard Sebrin.
HLW Skypers (Hello Little World Skypers) is group formed using Skype as its chief communication tool by Katherine Zablatnik and others, eight years go. It was formed to facilitate Video conferencing Worldwide for the promotion of Education and technology. Building bridges; we are family, hand in hand we aspire to make a better world, trying to understand one another, and improve our cultural awareness. Our members come from many countries across the globe and many do not speak English as their first languge.
Janet Barnstable joined this group soon after it was formed. As a retired educator, she spent many hours keeping the conversations going, helping those who needed help, suggesting alternatives and solutions to issues raised, took an interest in each and every member, and despite having no facebook, twitter or other popular social media account had her own well established global network.
She was the program manager for the Global Virtual Classroom. As these projects were usually spread over a 6 month period, our Australian school year finished and started afresh over this time, which prevented my classes from joining in as they changed each school year. However in 2017 Janet introduced mini projects so my class was able to participate in term 4 2017. I am so glad that I had the chance to work with her and some of the other teachers across the world. See and read what our Ocean project was with a class in Taiwan.
However, as ISTE 2018 in Chicago approached, several members of HLW Skypers from other countries talked about attending. Janet lived in Chicago with her husband Richard and she offered to host a garden party in their beautiful garden and excited chatter confirmed that we would love to be part of it. Planning started and another local Chicago resident Ellen Smith met with Janet to plan the afternoon. However, in late January Steve Sherman from Cape Town put a message into the HLW Skypers skype chat, asking whether any of us had heard from Janet lately as he had heard that she and her husband Richard Sebring may have been the as yet, unidentified victims of a house fire. Utter shock and disbelief set in amongst members of the group. It took weeks to identify and verify the bodies but it was indeed Janet and her husband. Unfortunately, both were confined to wheel chairs (Janet was a victim of polio). They were aged 78 and 76 years.
Our group setup a google document to crowd source our memories of Janet and pay testament to the wonderful work that she had done with us. She was collaborating globally even before the internet and she was “the cornerstone” and the “glue that kept the 150 or so global members of HLW Skypers together.”
Instead of attending Janet’s garden party, a small group of friends, family and HLW Skypers members gathered at a Graveside Ceremony at Ascension Cemetery, Libertyville. This was timed to coincide with the time that people were in Chicago for ISTE and on the very day the garden party was to take place. It was with a mixture of sadness, pride in knowing Janet (virtually) and the knowledge that she had brought us altogether. It was a simple service led by the Trustee of her estate, where those who had gathered shared a little about the contact that had with Janet. It was comforting to learn more about this friend of ours, especially her past before we knew her. David Karnoscak , Steve Sherman, Louise and Preston Cameron, Cheryl Kemper, Matthew Kuntz and myself were in attendance.
We were all invited to a brunch at the nearby Blueberry Pancake restaurant where we were able to share in further conversations and get to know each other better and learn even more about Janet.
We did still go to the garden party as Ellen Smith decided to host it in place of Janet. As she had already discussed the food etc with Janet, she kept to the same catering ideas – Italian sausage (which is a Chicago thing to eat), Mexican dips and platters etc. Further members were able to join us there as their flights only got in at lunchtime. Jen Maley and two of Janet’s close colleagues from GVC were there.
A school will be built in memory of Janet. (Will add more details when I find them out).
Janet was a wonderful role model and an innovative pioneer. She will be sorely missed by all those who worked with her.