Foote Mourns Loss of Laura Altshul

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Foote Mourns Loss of Laura Altshul
Laura Altshul

It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Laura Altshul on January 17, 2024, in New Haven. She was a long-time member of The Foote School faculty and staff.  

After 41 years at Foote, Laura retired in 2013 with the title of Admissions Director. Her title was wildly insufficient, hiding years of teaching kindergarten, directing the summer program, and creating community collaborations. She was a jack-of-all-Foote-trades, possibly as capable of snaking a drain in the faculty room as she was of making pizza with 5-year-olds or dressing up to teach phonics as the “Letterland Lady.” The endeavor for which she was most proud — no easy choice in a career filled with happy achievements — was her contribution to a more diverse student body at Foote — from 15 percent students of color when she first arrived in 1970, to 36 percent upon her retirement. “I wanted to get to one third,” she stated, and true to form, she surpassed the goal.

Laura Altshul

As a kindergarten teacher Laura is remembered for her boundless energy and enthusiasm: “I really loved teaching kindergarten,” she said. “Parents would come in and share recipes, grandparents would visit, a father came in and built a loft in my classroom. We cooked a different bread every Friday, we did a lot of hands-on projects and took many field trips, we had mice and guinea pigs. I wanted kids to feel respected and safe so they could take risks and grow; that was very important to me. It was a humming, happy classroom.” 

Laura became the Assistant Admissions Director and took on the title of Summer Program Director in 1971, expanding it to include hiking and bicycling. In 1993 Laura became Director of Admissions at Foote but remained active in early literacy at Foote through her role as “Letterland Lady.”

As Director of Admissions, Laura saw an opportunity to offer a Foote School education to a much larger share of the broader New Haven community. Laura was well ahead of the curve in embracing and understanding the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion. She made it her work and passion to expand the reach of Foote’s mission. 

She wrote: “I really feel that what we have at Foote should be available for every child, and when I came into Admissions I wanted collaborative programs.” In 1994 she founded STARS (Schools Together for Arts Resources) a Saturday morning cooking, crafts, multi-media and cultural collaboration between Foote and neighborhood public schools.  Two years later she co-founded Footebridge, which combined training for New Haven public school teachers and high school interns with a five-week summer program for kindergartners and first graders from New Haven public schools. 

After retiring from Foote, Laura served as the founding Board Chair of Horizons at Foote. Laura’s impact on diversity at Foote and on the education of children throughout the city cannot be understated. 

In retirement Laura found an opportunity to dedicate more time to her skill as a poet, publishing three collections of poetry between 2017 and 2021. Her poems are those of a talented writer and full of great humanity and courage.

We are deeply grateful for Laura’s influence on our lives, on the broader Foote School community and on the education of New Haven students. We are all the better for her enduring work, love, and tireless dedication to the values she held so dear. 

Reflecting on her 41 years at Foote, Laura wrote: “I am really proud of Foote’s socio-economic diversity. We live the mission everyday; we learn from each other and our diversity enriches us all. It’s an exciting place to be and teach, and it’s an exciting place for kids to be. That’s what school is all about.” 

Please join us in expressing sympathy to Laura’s family: her husband Vic and her children and stepchildren: Seth Osborne '85, Mark Osborne ’82, Matthew Osborne ’81, Katherine Altshul Darci ’90, and Jonathan Altshul ’88; and her grandchildren, Samuel Osborne ’18 and Sydney Osborne ’15.
 

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    Since 1916, The Foote School has provided child-centered education that nurtures creativity, excellence and joy in learning.