Students, colleagues mourn Petaluma teacher
Published: Thursday, February 2, 2012 at 6:09 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 2, 2012 at 8:47 p.m.
The respected Petaluma High School teacher and tennis coach who suffered a traumatic brain injury while skiing Tuesday officially died Wednesday night.
Doctors declared Sarah Wadsworth dead at 9:07 p.m. after further tests confirmed that she was brain-dead, her husband Greg Brausen said Thursday.
“She is officially passed away,” Brausen said.
Wadsworth was not immediately removed from life-support because the family has decided to donate her organs, Brausen said. He said he was not certain when that would occur.
Wadsworth taught French for 26 years at the west Petaluma school. She was last year's Teacher of the Year, coached girls tennis and sometimes taught English.
Wadsworth was riding a ski lift at Squaw Valley with her 16-year-old son, Cole, and two family friends, joking and enjoying a ski day when she suddenly slumped over, her family said. Ski patrol members performed CPR and she was airlifted to St. Mary's Regional Medical Center in Reno.
Doctors say she most likely suffered a brain aneurysm.
“The truth is, we will never know,” Brausen said.
Students and staff at Petaluma High School were trying to come to terms Thursday with the news.
“We are missing Sarah's presence today,” said Petaluma High Assistant Principal David Stirrat.
Students in her French classes wore fancy footwear Thursday in honor of their “madame.”
“The distinctive click of her heels in the hallways (is) one of the many things we'll miss about her,” Stirrat said.
Counselors were at the school throughout the day Thursday, talking with students known to be close to Wadsworth and others.
“They wrote countless words of appreciation that we are compiling for the family,” Stirrat said of the students.
“Her students are rallying in a remarkable way, pledging, for instance, to all pass the AP French exams in May. They are determined to secure her teaching legacy,” he said.
Brausen said students' reaction to her passing was a testament the impact she had on their lives.
“The outpouring from those kids is extraordinary,” Brausen said.
Colleagues and former students said Wadsworth had high standards and pushed them to do better.
“You inspired me to be the teacher I am today,” wrote Jamey Gessaman Everett of San Francisco, in an online message Thursday.
Julie Willhite said “madame” will be missed.
“You were an inspiration. Thank you for being rigorous with your expectations. It made me the French and theater teacher I am today,” Willhite wrote.
Wadsworth helped nurture the French program at Petaluma Junior High School to get students interested in French and steer them to her high school classes, Stirrat said.
Wadsworth, originally from Boston, and lived with her family in Sebastopol. Memorial services were pending.
Staff Writer Lori A. Carter contributed to this report. You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or email@example.com.
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