WMA GEMS: Ellie Seif

March 25, 2020

Continuing our recognition and celebration of people and places in West Mt. Airy. (The narrative on this “GEM” also includes some reminiscences by Yvonne from the good ole days.)

ELLIE SEIF, a retired educator of 28 years (public school teacher and principal), has traveled to photograph many places in the world.

If you go to Ellie’s website at , you will find beautiful, unusual, and special photographs from far beyond West Mt. Airy.

Ellie has had many solo exhibits, including one at International House at the University of Pennsylvania, featuring thirty-four images taken in Vietnam.

Other solo exhibits include nature photography shown at Awbury Arboretum and High Point Café. Ellie also has exhibited her Urban Landscape photographs taken throughout the city of Philadelphia.

She is a volunteer photographer for several organizations, including Habitat For Humanity and Weaver’s Way Coop.

As a renowned photographer, Ellie’s generosity makes her a true GEM! Her talent has cultivated a widespread appreciation of her work that she uses to generously contribute to public school education.

She raises funds annually to benefit the Picasso Project, a fund that provides arts grants to teachers in the Philadelphia School System.

Every year, before Christmas, many of us get a call from Ellie to purchase cards for her solo fundraising drive for public education. You see, she creates greeting cards from her vast collection to sell for the Picasso Project.

Every year, without fail, we get the call. Of course, I always purchase the cards, but years ago, I also purchased a framed 18X24” photograph of a scene in Vietnam that looks like a painting hanging on my wall!

In Ellie’s words, her “images capture a specific moment in time, recording nature’s beauty that sometimes eludes us as we go about our everyday lives.

Her photographs of people evolve from her desire to understand and communicate cultural similarities and differences with the hope that these understandings will break down barriers to cooperation and peace.”

I’ve known Ellie since 1972 when we were both young mothers…she a teacher and me the Executive Director of West Mt. Airy Neighbors. With our babies in carriages, we started YES (Youth Employment Services) to give kids summer employment doing chores for neighbors.

Ellie is a “Gem” because of her history in education, her many years always volunteering, and, most importantly, her wonderful gift of photography.

Her love and photographic capture of diversity in people, spaces, and places make Ellie true blue Mt. Airy. Go to her website to see what I mean.

(Note: This “Gem” was based on my personal knowledge, but WMAN wants to hear from YOU. If you wish to nominate a “Gem,” please submit your recommendation to with a narrative to share your justification. The only requirement is that both you and the person recommended must be WMAN members….Yvonne’s Rule!)

WMA GEMS: Judy Weinstein

March 25, 2020

Director Supreme… We will miss her at Mt. Airy Learning Tree

After 10 years at Mt. Airy Learning Tree (five as Executive Director), Judy Weinstein is stepping down to pursue other ventures and journeys.

Under Judy’s leadership, MALT BECAME EVEN MORE OF AN INSTITUTION IN MT. AIRY, tending to our thirst for learning, engagement, and connection.

Under Judy’s leadership, MALT created many new partnerships with local institutions, businesses and locations and in her last year, MALT’s student population grew amazingly by 14% over the prior 5-year average!

MALT renovated their beloved corner office, which holds classes every night and weekend.

Judy’s special parting legacy will be the re-designed garden, including a Little Free Library in front of the MALT office that will be completed this spring.

We applaud Judy for carrying on the dream Barbara Bloom had 37 years ago to have neighbors teach neighbors in a community setting, and we wish her well in her next adventure.

And we also look forward to more of her organizational talent that anyone who has worked with Judy knows to be simply superb.

WMA GEMS: Fatima M. Rogers

March 25, 2020

Principal, Charles W. Henry Elementary School… A JEWEL Devoted to Public Education

Fatima’s excellent leadership at Henry was recently confirmed in a big way…she became one of seven recipients of the Lindback Distinguished Principal Award.

The Lindback Distinguished Principal Award, funded by the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation of Philadelphia, recognizes and rewards Philly school principals who have made significant leadership and humanitarian contributions to his/her school community.

School leaders who are chosen to receive this award will receive $20,000 for their school community.

Fatima’s award will be used toward completing Henry’s new Multimedia Library “The Launchpad”. Henry has a Computer Lab that will be converted into a Multimedia Library Center that has high quality fiction and non-fiction texts, subscriptions to annual periodicals, a library management center, MakerSpace supplies, as well as, updated technology.

Being chosen to receive such a prestigious award was also impressive and impactful for the neighborhood.

We are so proud of Fatima’s leadership that we know will continue to be a beacon for good education for our kids and for the importance of public schools…a beacon that shines on all of us to support ours schools and value them as the backbone of a strong neighborhood.

WMA GEMS: Doris Kessler

May 15, 2019

The master of streetscapes… nurturing/planting trees and beautifying

For many years and getting close to 1000 tree plantings in Mt. Airy and nearby areas, Doris Kessler leads a dedicated group of people who love and know the value of trees.

Recently, she led a group to prune some trees. Each of the five trees they pruned got a lot of individualized attention, with great benefits to each one.

Doris is planning to set up another one or two pruning events this spring and is also accepting applications for street tree plantings until May 1st.

Doris was responsible for the restoration of the beautiful Pergola on Lincoln Drive and Johnson Street, for the plantings there and the beautiful plantings at the Emlen Circle on Lincoln Drive.

Her leadership brings together people from all over to plant the trees that keep us healthy and beautiful.