Meet a Member: Chapter president ran Montessori school

Name: Aleta Ledendecker.

Where and when I was born: I was born in Baltimore in 1951 (but you shouldn’t be asking a “lady”!) I now live just outside Knoxville, Tenn., where we polish the buckle of the Bible Belt without even trying.

Family: I’ve been married for over 50 years to my best friend, Carl. We have a wonderful freethinking daughter, plus three grandchildren. We bought a copy of Women Without Superstition as a college graduation gift for our daughter when we first met Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor in Cincinnati (a long time ago). Annie Laurie inscribed it: “To Meagan, the pagan.”

Education: I have a master’s degree in education, plus training as a Montessori teacher for early childhood and elementary levels. Despite all that formal education, I discovered that I learned far more during my teaching years than I did when I was the student.

Occupation: Carl and I ran a small private Montessori school until we retired about five years ago. That necessitated our being “in the closet” about our atheism. Carl always joked that the door was open if anyone wanted to look. In addition to teaching children, I was a Montessori teacher trainer and the director of Montessori Educators International, Inc. I still continue to teach graduate classes in Montessori philosophy for William Howard Taft University.

How I got where I am today: One day at a time. More seriously, I found myself in the right place at the right time in so many ways. I consider myself very fortunate to have lived the kind of life I have had and to have been as successful as I have been.

Where I’m headed: Into the future.

Person in history I admire and why: Stephen Hawking. Despite overwhelming health issues, he lived his life on his terms and made a huge contribution to the world of science.

A quotation I like: “It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” J.K. Rowling, as spoken through the voice of Dumbledore.

Things I like: Traveling and the ocean (preferably fitting in both at the same time.)

Things I smite: Project Blitz, especially how it brings religion into public education.

My doubts about religion started: When I was in grade school. The idea of a god watching all the kids in the world do unimportant forbidden stuff was hard to comprehend.

Before I die: I want to make the world a better place in whatever ways I can.

Ways I promote freethought: I am active in numerous freethought groups in the Knoxville area and throughout Tennessee. I am also the head of our local chapter of FFRF. When separation of state and church issues arise in our area, I am willing to be the voice for those who cannot speak out for fear of reprisal.

What has been your most difficult challenge?: I contracted Lyme disease in 2012. It took several years of intense treatment to regain my quality of life and be able to function fully again. I must continue to be vigilant about my health to keep it from returning. But I praise modern medicine and antibiotics (not god), without which I might not be here today.

Aleta Ledendecker
Aleta Ledendecker, shown wearing one of FFRF’s “Ask an Atheist” T-shirts, is president of the FFRF East Tennessee chapter.