by Eden Luymes
In my preschool days, Julie Braun was the “magic lady.” She lived in a little schoolroom amongst doll houses, toy tractors, and teddy bears, turning play-dough into gold with a touch, telling wild stories, and singing the silliest songs that always left me giggling.
Twelve years later and still at ACS, I now see she is a much different person than I first believed, yet no less magical.
Behind the bright face of a preschool teacher is Julie Braun: world traveler, zumba dancer, gushing fan of Colin Firth, Jane Austin enthusiast, and a huge inspiration. Born in England, with the faintest hint of an accent remaining today—and the endearing habit of calling nearly everyone “love”—she immigrated to Canada at a young age. She is the definition of bubbly, is constantly cracking jokes, and has a smile never far from her cheeks.
What I didn’t know in preschool was that Julie is a lady of many talents. She has always been musical. The first movie she ever saw in a theatre, at the age of five, was the “Sound of Music,” which remains a favourite to this day. Every year around Christmas time, she and her family watch the film together, although she occasionally has to bribe her sons into watching it with her by cooking them a special meal. In her preschool class, Julie has a knack for creating a catchy tune or song on the spot, many of which I could still recite today from my days in her care.
Julie also has a huge and warm heart. She shared very passionately about her recent trip to Europe with her husband, where they travelled for five weeks through the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, and France. While abroad, she was fascinated by the immense history, especially drawn to the stories of the Jewish people during the holocaust. One particular visit to Dachau touched Julie deeply. Walking through the very gas chambers where many Jews spent their final moments and seeing walls and walls of the names belonging to once living people was a moving experience for her. But seeing all the names of people who had risked their lives to help rescue and house Jews during the holocaust was an inspiration for Julie.“It doesn’t have to be a nation,” she passionately told me. “Changing the world starts with one person.”
And to many people, Julie has been that one person. Something I definitely didn’t know when I was in preschool was that Julie is sometimes known as the Lemon Loaf Lady. Her “lemon loaf ministry” is Julie’s little way of encouraging others in need around her. Whenever God whispers the name of someone in her ear, perhaps someone going through a tough time or someone in need of some encouragement, Julie goes to work. The ingredients are always in her cozy kitchen. She simply makes one of her almost-famous lemon loaves and writes a little note to the recipient, then delivers her sweet gift to someone in need of a little sugar in their life. And trust me, you want God to be whispering your name in her ear. Those lemon loaves are to die for.
But her talents don’t end with baking. Julie is also using her gift of knitting to make a difference for children in Guatemala. Inspired by her preschoolers, Julie, who considers herself a “co-learner” with the students, and her class will be raising money for school supplies for a preschool in Guatemala beginning in January. The students will have Guatemalan pen-pals and pray for children in need around the world daily. Julie also makes scarves in her spare time to send to kids in Guatemala. Her students truly share her passion for loving others.
So, do I still see Julie Braun—Mrs. Braun to me—as the “magic lady?” Of course. As I discover more and more of her life, her magic only grows—sparkling far beyond the classroom walls.