One educator’s lasting legacy
We are not talking about Mother Teresa here, nor is this about Mary Poppins. But we are talking about someone who embodied a smooth blend of the two.
An unforgettable human being – “angelic,” as her friends describe her. Someone who made a difference in thousands of lives she touched, in small ways, in several ways.
That was Sharon Ann Wentworth – a great mother, a great colleague, and a great teacher. She died Feb. 1 at the age of 63, after a long battle with cancer.
“She was an incredible educator because she had such an intense impact on all the children and families she worked with,” said Holly Hermansen, assistant superintendent at Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Office in Nevada City. Hermansen was the principal of Gold Run School, for three years, where Wentworth was a teacher.
“She had an effect on the lives of children both in the classroom, in the community and in their home life,” Hermansen said. “Not only did she teach academics, she taught children to become good citizens.”
At least once a year, Wentworth stood on her head for her students. It was a fulfillment of a promise she would make with them, Hermansen said. On one occasion, Wentworth even called Hermansen out of her office to witness the annual feat.
“She did it quite well,” Hermansen recalled with laughter. “And the students loved it. They’d be anticipating it for the year as she had promised them.”
Courtney Funk, 9, a student at Deer Creek School, was taught by Wentworth in her second grade class.
“We would have parties on Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day and at the end of the school year, and she would stand on her head,” Funk said. “She was very friendly and she helped me learn a lot of stuff I didn’t know. She helped me feel good about myself and my self-confidence.”
Funk said she was “really, really, really upset” to hear of Wentworth’s death, as she was her favorite teacher.
“She was a lot of fun,” Funk said. “She was special.”
Wentworth would often show up on Saturdays at soccer games, music recitals, or gymnastics meets to lend her support to students. While on personal trips, she’d send postcards to students telling them how a place or thing reminded her of them.
“She taught in a style that every child, regardless of their ability or skill level, was able to succeed, achieve and flourish,” said Stan Miller, superintendent of Twin Ridges school district. “She was able to teach the basics and enrichment and the arts and physical education in a seamless manner.
“Her classroom was an absolute hubbub of activity, energy and accomplishment. Her involvement with her students never stopped at 3 o’clock.”
Miller, who was also a principal at Wentworth’s school, said that in his academic career spanning 35 years, Wentworth was probably the most gifted and talented teacher with whom he has ever worked.
“Sharon never had the light shine on her,” he said. “She carefully resisted accolades, compliments, and recognition in order to help people see what others contributed both to the classroom and the world in general.”
In 2004, Wentworth won the Nevada County Teacher of the Year award. She retired the same year.
“She was the most endearing friend,” said Ann Kent, school secretary at the Gold Run School, who knew Wentworth for 16 years. “She was an endearing teacher. She could take the most difficult child and make him compassionate and teach him so much. She had it all. She was amazing.”
One of Wentworth’s specialties was that her help went beyond her students to their families.
“A consummate mother (of three sons) herself, she was able to guide or support all of us as parents in our struggles to raise our own children,” Miller said. “She was a confidante to parents. She helped ease their own personal pressures in their efforts to do the best jobs they could as parents.”
Miller, whose sons were taught by Wentworth, remembered Wentworth as always having “a twinkle in her eyes … a wonderful sense of humor, and joy even in tense situations.”
Hermansen, on the other hand, described her as “sensitive, astonishing, forgiving, and caring.”
“As a parent myself, I realize how tireless she was, how much she sacrificed her personal life for us,” said Brian Lewis, Wentworth’s eldest son. “She delayed getting married again. She did not get married again till all of us left. She made sure that we stayed connected to our families despite the distances. We made a cross-country bus ride with her to see her brothers graduate from West Point.”
Meticulous in remembering birthdays of all family members and relatives, Wentworth would attend the graduations of all her nephews and nieces, all the baptisms of her grandchildren. The giving of herself for her friends and family is what Lewis found most admirable in his mother.
“She was probably was the finest human being I have ever encountered,” Miller said. “My perception of Mother Teresa was all-giving, all-loving, all-reflecting outward to others and never upon herself.”
To him, and to many others who knew her, Sharon Ann Wentworth was exactly that.
To contact Soumitro Sen, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4229.
Sharon Ann Wentworth
July 22, 1942: Born in Syracuse, N.Y., to Bob and Hellen Kelley.
1964: Graduated from Long Beach State.
1965: Married William Lewis.
1966: Birth of first child, Brian Lewis.
1967: Birth of second child, Brendan Lewis.
1970: Birth of third child, Dan Lewis.
1972: Relocation to Nevada City.
1976: Obtained her teaching credentials.
circa. 1976: Joined the Nevada City Elementary School.
circa. 1986: Joined Deer Creek School.
circa. 1988: Joined Gold Run School.
1991: Married Frank Wentworth.
2004: Won the Nevada County Teacher of the Year.
2004: Retired from Gold Run School.
All the above dates and years were obtained from Brian Lewis, eldest son of Sharon Ann Wentworth.
– Soumitro Sen
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