Zlata Geisinsky, beloved Chabad Emissary of Bethesda and Chevy Chase, MD, passed away on Sunday, June 14th , 2010, after a brief illness. She was a gifted educator, dedicated community leader, and wonderful person. I was fortunate briefly to get to know her in her role as the director of my children's preschool, the Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy.

I'll never forget my daughter's first foray into the world of education. We pulled up to the building for our appointment to meet Zlata Geisinsky. I was very nervous as this was my first child and I had no idea what to expect. I chose my outfit carefully and dressed my daughter in her best clothing, eager for her to make a good impression. She was just 19 months old but could speak in full sentences and seemed to enjoy the company of other children.

To my dismay, my daughter was not in the best of moods, to say the least. She was whining when we exited the car and continued to complain through the door of the school. Trying to overcompensate, I smiled broadly and exclaimed how exciting it was to be looking at a new school. My daughter looked at me skeptically but managed to stop whimpering for a couple of minutes.

I introduced myself to the front guard and, moments later, spotted a beaming woman walking in our direction. "What a pretty, sweet girl," she exclaimed, cupping my daughter's face in her palm. My daughter, though often suspicious of strangers, smiled shyly and proceeded to take her hand, walking with her down the school's vast hallway. We entered the indoor gym, a lovely, bright room with a plethora of toys and gym equipment. My daughter busied herself with the toy car while she chatted away with Mrs. Geisinsky as if she had known her for months.

After a little while my daughter's moodiness returned and we continued to the preschool classroom. We had barely entered the door when, on the linoleum floor, my daughter threw up her lunch (and breakfast and snack, it seemed). I was sure that we would be thrown out, banned from the building. Mrs. Geisinsky, however, did not bat an eye, except to look at my daughter in concern. "Is she alright?" she asked, smoothing my daughter's sweaty forehead. "Let me get her a cup of water." She rushed out and came back with a stack of paper towels and a filled cup of water which my daughter thankfully drank. We cleaned up the mess and continued to Mrs. Geisinsky's office where I braced myself for the rejection.

"We'd love to have your daughter," Mrs. Geisinsky said with a smile, her hands still holding soiled paper towels. I stared at her in shock. She proceeded to give me her cell phone number and invited us to call her at any time.

After my daughter began school, I was awed at the warm and loving environment that Mrs. Geisinsky and her staff created. The hallways were beautifully decorated with preschool artwork and often commemorated the upcoming Yom Tov or weekly Torah portion.

During the week of the portion of Lech Lecha, each classroom doorway was decorated to look like the entrance to the tent of Abraham and Sarah. The children would visit each other to learn the mitzvah of welcoming guests. Passover would find frogs and other plagues dangling from the hallway ceiling. On Israel's Independence Day each classroom would house a different fun activity for the children. In their blue and white outfits, they would make elaborate headbands, squeeze homemade orange juice, shop in an Israeli market, a "shuk," and dig in the sand for treasures. The fall brought a trip to a local farm where Mrs. Geisinsky gamely fed the animals and rode the bumpy hayride, smiling all the while.

Mrs. Geisinsky was always accessible to answer questions or address concerns. One could always find Mrs. Geisinsky roaming the halls—speaking gently to the children, pleasantly chatting with the teachers, and schmoozing or speaking in muted tones with parents. She went out of her way to accommodate each child's needs, tailoring hours, days, and teachers to suit his or her necessities.

For myself, I wanted to pick up my daughter at the earliest dismissal time, 12:00pm, as I was a stay-at-home mother. My daughter, however, insisted on eating lunch with her classmates, which would lead to the next dismissal time at 2:15pm. Mrs. Geisinsky offered specially to extend my daughter's day by a half-hour so she could eat her lunch with the other students and still get picked up early. Towards the end of the school year I had forgotten to send in my re-enrollment form for the next year. Mrs. Geisinsky called me on no less then three occasions to remind me to re-apply so I would not suffer monetary penalties.

I not only felt like Mrs. Geisinksy cared for my daughter, and later my son; I felt like they were loved. Mrs. Geisinsky would always tell me how special they were, what sweet kids I was raising. She would give them hugs, stroke their hair, and make special visits to my daughter's classroom to make sure she was adjusting after her difficult morning goodbyes.

On the hallway of the pre-school is a large poster showing the pictures of all the educators. Adjacent to each picture is a personal quote summing up his or her experience with teaching small children. Next to Mrs. Geisinsky's picture are the words, "My teacher once told me that if you love what you do you will never work a day in your life. I have yet to work a day." We will be forever grateful for the wonder and warmth that Mrs. Geisinsky instilled into our children and into our lives and will miss her dearly.