Phyllis An Ditlow-Des Jardins, 71, Head Start leader

Phyllis An Ditlow-Des Jardins
Phyllis An Ditlow-Des Jardins
Posted: September 16, 2013

A life celebration will be held Sunday, Sept. 15, for Phyllis An Ditlow-Des Jardins, 71, an early-childhood educator who died Saturday, April 13, at Lankenau Hospital of complications from pneumonia.

The memorial will be from 1 p.m. until sunset at the family home, 4165 Apalogen Rd., East Falls.

Born in Philadelphia, Mrs. Ditlow-Des Jardins graduated from Northeast High School. She earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education from Temple University.

She obtained master's degrees from Lehigh and Hahnemann Universities and had almost completed a doctorate when she married and had a child.

Mrs. Ditlow-Des Jardins spent 36 years with the Philadelphia School District, ending in 1999, and held the position of supervisor and principal of Head Start, with responsibility for 28 Head Start sites.

Until mid-2004, she worked as supervisor and principal in the Vineland, N.J., School District, where she presided over 13 child-care centers and a preschool that included special-needs children.

Her gift was serving as a facilitator in conflict resolution. She would intervene in situations involving children, or youngsters at odds with parents and teachers, to reach a consensus. She trained others in the techniques.

Her first job was at the Eastern State School, near the Philadelphia State Hospital at Byberry, where she taught mentally and emotionally challenged children. She then went to the John B. Kelly School in Philadelphia, working with at-risk youth.

She jumped at the chance to teach summer school on the Cherokee Indian Reservation in Cherokee, N.C., her family said in a statement. She returned each summer for many years, and one year, she opened the first Head Start center.

She gave graduate lectures at Arcadia University, Pennsylvania State University, and Hahnemann University. She also spoke at national conferences and wrote grants.

After a few years in Florida, she returned to Philadelphia in 2008 and became a program coordinator for KenCrest, a human-services agency. She never retired.

"Phyllis' wonder at the world spilled over into classroom activities," the agency said. "Her passion for reading was evidenced by children's books filling every nook and cranny. Her love of art was obvious in the framed children's work in the hallways."

She believed one should work hard but have fun. Her sense of humor was infectious, her family said. She enjoyed modern dance, theater, museums, and travel.

Surviving are her husband, John; a daughter, Margaux; a brother; a sister; and a niece.

Donations may be made to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals via

Condolences to the family may be offered via

Contact Bonnie L. Cook at 610-313-8102 or

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