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Published: Friday, 7/7/2006

Cypriot immigrant shared knack for languages as Spanish teacher

Ivi Sayers, 58, a teacher who brought to the classroom her love of Spanish and her experience in learning English as an immigrant to the United States, died of cancer Wednesday in her Sylvania Township home.

She was first diagnosed with cancer in the early 1990s.

"There were [three] things that were her strength: her love of her family and the family's love toward her. Also her love for life," said her sister, Tina Papavasilopoulos.

Mrs. Sayers taught Spanish at Whitmer High School for about a decade, until 1991.

"She had a knack or an ability to pick up other languages, and she wanted to share that with other people," said Rose Corcoran-Smith, a longtime friend who taught at Springfield High School.

"She made her classes fun. Learning in her classroom was not a chore, but more of an adventure. It was, 'What is she going to do next?'●"

Mrs. Sayers was a teenager in 1962 when she and her family moved from Cyprus to West Toledo, joining her father, Sophoclis Diacou, who had moved to the city a decade earlier. She spoke no English but was able "to quickly pick up and master the English language," her sister said.

She took Spanish at Start High School, from which she graduated, and found it almost a bridge from Greek to English.

"She really fell in love with Spanish," her sister said. "There was a time when she spoke better Spanish than either Greek or English."

Students knew of her experience in learning a second, then a third, language.

"That was the main thing: 'If I can do this, coming to the United States, it's not that hard. You can do it too.'●" Mrs. Corcoran-Smith recalled her friend as saying. "The students respected her a lot."

Mrs. Sayers received bachelor's and master's degrees in education from the University of Toledo, specializing in Spanish. As an undergraduate, she received a scholarship to study at the University of Puerto Rico.

She taught Spanish at UT as a graduate assistant. She later taught Spanish at the former Holy Spirit Seminary and at Anthony Wayne High School.

The Sayers family moved to Hong Kong in 1991 because her husband was transferred there by his employer, Pilkington PLC. She taught Spanish at the Hong Kong International School, and family members joked about a Greek teaching Spanish in Hong Kong, her sister said.

Mrs. Sayers was active for many years in the Association of Two Toledos and was a translator when a delegation from Toledo, Spain, visited during the U.S. Bicentennial.

She liked to cook Greek food, but she wasn't afraid to tackle any other ethnic dish, and she liked to throw parties, her sister said.

Mrs. Corcoran-Smith said, "She was like an angel walking on Earth. She was always there for other people and their problems, in spite of the fact that she was so ill herself."

Surviving are her husband, Mark Sayers, whom she married Nov. 5, 1978; daughter, Sophia Gilsdorf; sons, Phillip and Alexander Sayers; sister, Photini Papavasilopoulos, and brothers, Kypros and Tryphonas Diacou.

The body will be in the Ansberg West Funeral Home after 4 p.m. Saturday, with Trisagion prayers at 7 p.m. Sunday in the mortuary. Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Monday in Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, of which she was a member.

The family suggests tributes to the cathedral or St. Francis de Sales High School.



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