Mirta Ester Blat (Née Nicberg)

August 7, 1945-October 19, 2019

 

image of Mirta Ester Blat

Mirta Ester Blat

Mirta Blat, beloved mother, grandmother, friend, colleague, and teacher, passed away peacefully on October 19, 2019, in her own home, surrounded by family.

The third of four daughters, Mirta was born in Chascomus, a little town in Argentina known for its croissants. Hers was the only Jewish family in town and one of the only fun things she and her sisters could do was go to the movies, for which they needed a special voucher from the local Catholic priest. When the anti-Semitic priest wouldn’t give it to them, they had to sneak into the cinema. Her family moved to Buenos Aires when she was ten.

From earliest childhood, Mirta worked with her parents in the family’s clothing store chain. Her parents were emigres from Eastern Europe: her father escaped Poland under threat of Nazis in the thirties, his brother fled to Israel after surviving a Russian prisoner of war camp, and the rest of his family died in the concentration camps. Her mother’s family had arrived in Argentina a generation earlier. Under the ever-shifting economic and political conditions of life in Argentina, Mirta’s parents worked ceaselessly to build security for their family, putting all their image of Mirta Blatchildren to work from the time they were little. A ray of light during this hard period for Mirta was when her uncle brought home a stack of books for her to read, exposing her to a broader world.  Later a teacher, seeing her great appetite for learning, introduced her to many more books. One of her favorites was Lin Yutang’s The Importance of Living, which expressed a philosophy of simplicity and pragmatism that spoke to her. Maybe because of her delight in books, Mirta, despite long days in the stores, found the will to attend college, studying evenings to earn a teaching degree.   Her career as a teacher began with teaching mathematics to elementary school kids. Soon she switched to high school English, her first assignment the nerve-wracking task of teaching students how to use a pressure cooker (something she had to first figure out herself). She went on to obtain a Juris Doctor from the University of Belgrano in 1973 and practiced for many years as an attorney, helping people navigate the labyrinthine Argentine legal bureaucracy to get their pensions and social security payments.

In 1981, Mirta, her ex-husband, George Blat, and their two older children Guido and Cinthia moved to the United States so that George could pursue a career in computer engineering. They settled in Edmonds, Washington, where their youngest child Jessica was born two years later in 1983.

Because her legal training could not be transferred to the US, Mirta returned to teaching. Her first teaching position in Seattle was at Blessed image of Mirta BlatSacrament. Later she moved on to Bertschi, where she started the Spanish language program. From there, she moved on to become Lakeside Middle School’s first Spanish Language teacher in 1990, where she remained for the rest of her life, combining teaching with managerial responsibilities as the head of the Middle School Foreign Languages department. Throughout her long career in language education, Mirta sustained a deep passion for her profession and fascination with pedagogy. Teaching was a true calling for Mirta and she excelled at it. She loved honing her skills through trainings and conferences and was always reading up on learning, brain development and cognitive styles. Ever seeking new ways to enhance students’ learning, she kept her classes fun, student-centered, and interactive.

Mirta belonged equally to her worlds in the United States and Argentina. A loyal, lifelong friend, she kept in close touch with her family and friends in Argentina, returning to visit them every summer. She also hosted many family members from Argentina in Seattle. Beyond her two primary homes in the Seattle area and Buenos Aires, Mirta was a world traveler, having visited much of Europe and many places in South and Central America, the Middle East, and North Africa.  In addition, she led Lakeside students in international exchanges with Mexico and Costa Rica. She loved languages, was fluent in Spanish, English, and French, and was learning Italian.

After she and George divorced in 2002, Mirta moved first to Mercer Island then to Kirkland in 2010, where she spent the rest of her life. She always thought of her home in Kirkland as her “retreat”, a peaceful little spot all her own. Mirta enjoyed cooking for her family, especially traditional Argentine foods like empanadas, milanesas, pascualina, and tortillas. She was always trying to figure out how to cook eggplants. Mirta also enjoyed painting, reading spy novels, exploring new technologies, and watching cooking shows. She took a special delight in animated movies like Coco and Zootopia. Most of all, she loved spending time with her two-year-old granddaughter, Natalie, to whom she was known as ‘Abi’ for abuela, and on whom she gifted a never-ending stream of coats, socks, shoes and onesies. She liked to tell her granddaughter long stories about a little girl named Natalie who loved blueberries.

Mirta is survived by her son, Guido, of Portland, Oregon; her daughter Cinthia, son-in-law Michael, and granddaughter, Natalie, of San Francisco, California; her youngest daughter, Jessica, and daughter-in-law, Judy, of Seattle, Washington; one surviving sister, Irma; two nieces, Andrea and Brenda; her former husband, George; and countless colleagues, students, and friends.

She will be greatly missed.

Donations in Mirta’s honor can be made to the Rainier Scholars Fund at https://www.rainierscholars.org/donatenow/.  Please identify that the gift is in Mirta’s memory under the “Comments” section of the form.

You may also send a check (payable to Rainier Scholars) to: Rainier Scholars | Attn: Development | 2100  24th Ave S, Suite 360 | Seattle, WA 98144.  A note “in memory of Mirta Blat” on the memo line would be helpful.

 

7 de agosto de 1945 – 19 de octubre de 2019

Mirta Blat, querida madre, abuela, amiga, colega y maestra, falleció en paz el 19 de octubre de 2019, en su propia casa, rodeada de sus seres queridos.

La tercera de cuatro hijas, Mirta nació en Chascomús, un pequeño pueblo en la provincia de Buenos Aires, conocido por sus medialunas. La suya era la única familia judía en la ciudad y una de las únicas cosas divertidas que ella y sus hermanas podían hacer era ir al cine, para lo cual había que obtener un cupón especial del sacerdote católico local. Cuando el sacerdote, de ideología antisemita, no se los daba, tenían que colarse en el cine. Su familia se mudó a Buenos Aires cuando ella tenía diez años.

Desde su infancia, Mirta trabajó con sus padres en las tiendas de ropa de la familia. Sus padres eran emigrados de Europa del Este: su padre escapó de Polonia bajo la amenaza de los nazis en los años treinta, su tío huyó a Israel después de sobrevivir a un campo de prisioneros de guerra ruso, y el resto de su familia murió en los campos de concentración. La familia de su madre había llegado a Argentina una generación antes. Bajo las siempre cambiantes condiciones económicas y políticas de vida en Argentina, los padres de Mirta trabajaron sin cesar para brindar seguridad a su familia, poniendo a todas sus niñas a trabajar desde que eran pequeñas. Durante esa época, apareció un rayo de luz para Mirta cuando su tío trajo a su casa un montón de libros para que ella los leyera, exponiéndola a un mundo más grande. Más tarde, una maestra, al ver sus ansias por aprender, la introdujo a muchos más libros. Uno de sus favoritos fue “La importancia de vivir” de Lin Yutang, que expresaba una filosofía de simplicidad y pragmatismo. Tal vez debido al encanto que le proporcionaba la lectura, Mirta, a pesar de los largos días de trabajo en las tiendas, tuvo la voluntad de realizar una carrera, estudiando hasta tarde para recibirse de docente. Su carrera como maestra comenzó con la enseñanza de matemáticas en la escuela primaria. Pronto se cambió a la escuela secundaria para la enseñanza del idioma Inglés. Allí, como  primera tarea tuvo que enseñarles a los estudiantes cómo usar una olla a presión (algo que no sólo era estresante sino que primero  tenía que descubrir por sí misma). Ella continuó sus estudios y se graduó como Abogada de la Universidad de Belgrano en 1973 y ejerció durante años su profesión, ayudando a las personas a obtener sus pensiones y beneficios de la seguridad social en el marco de una enorme burocracia legal.

En 1981, Mirta, su ex esposo, Jorge Blat, y sus dos hijos mayores, Guido y Cinthia, emigraron a los Estados Unidos para que Jorge pudiera seguir una carrera en ingeniería informática. Se establecieron en Edmonds, Washington, donde nació su hija menor, Jessica, dos años después, en 1983.

Debido a que su carrera universitaria como abogada no pudo validarse en los Estados Unidos, Mirta retomó la enseñanza. Su primer puesto como docente  en Seattle, fue en la escuela Blessed Sacrament. Luego continuó en la escuela Bertschi, donde comenzó el Programa de Español. A partir de ahí, en 1990 se trasladó al Lakeside Middle School, convirtiéndose en la primera maestra de Español de la institución, donde permaneció por el resto de su vida  y se fue desarrollando, combinando la enseñanza con las responsabilidades de gestión como Directora del departamento de idiomas extranjeros de Lakeside Middle School. A lo largo de su larga carrera en la enseñanza de idiomas, Mirta mantuvo una profunda pasión por su profesión y fascinación por la pedagogía. La enseñanza fue su verdadera vocación y logró destacarse en la misma. Le encantaba perfeccionar sus habilidades a través de capacitaciones y conferencias y continuamente leía sobre el aprendizaje, el desarrollo del cerebro y los estilos cognitivos. Siempre buscando nuevas formas de mejorar el aprendizaje de los estudiantes, mantuvo sus clases divertidas, centradas en los estudiantes e interactivas.

Mirta pertenecía a sus mundos en los Estados Unidos y en la Argentina por igual. Siendo una amiga fiel y de toda la vida, mantuvo un cercano vínculo con su familia y amigos en Argentina, volviendo a visitarlos cada verano. También recibió a muchos familiares de Argentina en Seattle. Más allá de sus hogares principales en Seattle y Buenos Aires, a Mirta le gustaba mucho viajar por todo el mundo, había visitado gran parte de Europa y muchos lugares en América del Sur y Central, Medio Oriente y África del Norte. Además, lideró programas de intercambio internacional para estudiantes de Lakeside con México y Costa Rica. Le encantaban los idiomas, hablaba con fluidez Español, Inglés y Francés, y estaba aprendiendo Italiano.

Después de su divorcio con Jorge en 2002, Mirta se mudó primero a Mercer Island y luego a Kirkland en 2010, donde pasó el resto de su vida. Ella siempre pensó en su hogar en Kirkland como su “retiro”, un pequeño y tranquilo lugar propio. A Mirta le gustaba cocinar para su familia, especialmente comidas típicas argentinas como empanadas, milanesas, pascualina y tortillas. Ella siempre estaba tratando de descubrir cómo cocinar berenjenas. A Mirta también le gustaba pintar, leer novelas de espías y mirar programas de cocina. La deslumbraban especialmente las películas animadas, como Coco y Zootopia. Pero sobretodo, le encantaba pasar tiempo con su nieta de dos años, Natalie, quien la llamaba “Abi” por abuela, y a quien le regaló un sinfín de abrigos, medias, zapatos y enteritos. Le gustaba contarle a su nieta largas historias sobre una niña llamada Natalie que amaba los arándanos.

Su hijo, Guido de Portland, Oregon; su hija Cinthia, yerno Michael y su nieta Natalie, de San Francisco, California; su hija menor Jessica y su nuera Judy, de Seattle, Washington; su hermana Irma, sus sobrinas Andrea y Brenda; su ex esposo Jorge, e innumerables colegas, estudiantes y amigos, la despiden con mucho amor.

La vamos a extrañar mucho.

Se pueden hacer donaciones en honor de Mirta al Rainier Scholars Fund en https://www.rainierscholars.org/donatenow/. Por favor identifique que el regalo es en la memoria de Mirta en la sección “Comentarios” del formulario.

También puede enviar un cheque (a nombre de Rainier Scholars) a: Rainier Scholars | Atención: Desarrollo | 2100 24th Ave S, Suite 360 | Seattle, WA98144. Agradecemos colocar la aclaración “en memoria de Mirta Blat” en la línea de memo por favor.

 

4 Responses to “Mirta Ester Blat (Née Nicberg)”

  • Jayne Kulzer says:

    So sorry to hear that Mirta passed so young. I had the opportunity to get to know her and her generosity when traveling to Argentina a couple of years ago. We stayed at her beautiful flat in Palermo. She gave us great ideas and places to visit. I loved reading about her life journey in this memorial. She had a rich and intriguing life. Sending hugs and love to her family and friends during this difficult time.

  • Paul says:

    Sorry for the loss, my prayers and thoughts are with the family during this trying moment, may her soul rest in peace.

  • Debby Heath says:

    As an Upper School Spanish teacher at Lakeside, I was able to see firsthand how much Mirta’s students learned from her and adored her a teacher. Whenever any topic related to Argentina came up in our classes, the students’ eyes would light up and they’d all smile and say lovingly “Mirta!”. Mirta passed on to her students a love of Argentinian culture, a love of the Spanish language, and deep curiosity about the world.

    Several of my Spanish 4 students chose to interview Mirta for their native speaker interview project. Their final products were so special since they had developed a strong bond with their beloved Middle School teacher and, in turn, Mirta was always so impressed with how advanced the students had become in their language ability. She, of course, was the one who planted the seed! (By the way, I have kept these interviews if anyone in the family would like them.)

    For me, personally, Mirta was a good friend and a trusted colleague. I came to Lakeside 25 years ago, and she made me feel welcome from day one. She supported me professionally, gave me guidance as a language teacher, and was always upbeat and positive when talking about students. I, along with the entire Lakeside community, will miss her so much and know that her spirit will live on within us.

    Fondly,

    Debby Heath
    Upper School Spanish teacher

  • Denise Leung says:

    My condolences to Senora Blat’s family. I didn’t take Spanish at Lakeside, but she allowed me sit in on her classes whenever I was interested. This is a marker of a real teacher- someone who encourages students to learn. She was passionate, fun, and engaging. She was also the most stylish person at school. She was a fixture of Lakeside, and will always be remembered with affection.

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