Diane Zahand had a passion for early childhood education.
Now, even after her death, her work is continuing..
After Zahand died on Oct. 10, her husband, Jim Zahand, donated her collection of more than 5,000 books to the Spokane County Library District. With the books came a generous check and a request that SCLD create a memorial fund in her name.
“In her eyes every child was a gifted child,” Zahand said.
He traced her love of teaching to the birth of their two sons. “She got involved in their education. It sparked something in her and from that time on she was immersed in early childhood education.”
Zahand said that’s when the book collection began. “She was tremendously interested in science and Native American culture. We had a room in our house that was floor to ceiling books.”
Doug Stumbough, deputy director of the Spokane County Library District, said, “This is the first time we’ve received a collection this big.”
The books are primarily children’s nonfiction and picture books with a smattering of adult titles and even some cookbooks. “The collection has great depth and breadth and is very well cared for,” said Sheri Boggs, Youth Collection Development Librarian.
“She had an incredible love of learning,” Zahand said.
Diane taught at Pioneer School in Spokane Valley for many years. Scrapbooks filled with letters, pictures, cards and drawings from former students testify to the difference she made in their lives.
As Zahand talked about his wife, he often spoke of her in the present tense. “She has an incredible knack with children,” he said.
In 2002, she was ready to retire, but parents begged her to continue teaching, so she launched Prism School in Spokane Valley.
There her philosophy of uncovering each child’s giftedness flourished. She continued running the school throughout her seven-year battle with uterine cancer.
She closed the school in September 2012 and died a month later.
Zahand patted the stack of scrapbooks and nodded toward a pile of children’s books from his wife’s collection. “I ask myself how does one person do all this? The only thing I could come up with is, she didn’t sleep! I wish I could have bottled that energy.”
Zahand said as his wife was dying, they talked about what she would leave behind. She decided she wanted her book collection to go to the library. “She wanted the books to be used and read.”
She got her wish. Boggs said Diane Zahand’s books have been flying off the shelves. “They’re all in circulation. The titles about Native American tribes were very nice to get.”
Friends and family were asked to consider contributing to the Diane E. Zahand Memorial Fund in lieu of flowers. And the money flowed in.
Stumbough said the fund is currently at $8,734, but contributions continue, including matching gifts from Boeing and Microsoft.
Stumbough said the money will be used to create and support early childhood education programs.
Boggs said, “We are so grateful for such a generous gift.”
His wife’s legacy offers Zahand a measure of comfort in his loss. “I miss her terribly. We were married 37 years.” His voice catches. Tears fall. Wiping his eyes he continued. “It wasn’t long enough.”