BRITTON, Mich. - Karen Lockwood, 50, of Britton, Mich., an award-winning educator in the Bedford Public Schools who shared her passion for learning with her young students, died Thursday in her home.
Described as an exceptional teacher who was committed to her profession, Mrs. Lockwood was named educator of the year for 2007 at Monroe Road Elementary School in Lambertville.
"The first word that comes to mind about Karen is passionate. She was very passionate and dedicated towards her work and her kids and her family," said Jessica Wexler, a team teacher with Mrs. Lockwood for the last six years at the Monroe Road school.
Mrs. Lockwood was well aware that not all children learn the same way, Miss Wexler said. "She would individualize lessons, and she would help the kids learn at their own levels," she said.
Mrs. Lockwood began teaching in Bedford Public Schools in 1994 when she was hired as a first and second-grade teacher at Smith Road Elementary School. She worked there until 2001 when the new Monroe Road Elementary School opened, said Ken Graf, Monroe Road principal.
Mrs. Lockwood helped create a warm atmosphere at the new school in large part because of her teaching abilities and her professionalism, he said.
"She was a highly creative educator. She used different ideas to get across a concept to these first-grade students," he said.
Friends and family recalled that parents would ask for their children to be assigned to Mrs. Lockwood's classroom.
Sometimes Mrs. Lockwood would find snake skins or abandoned bird nests at her country home, and she would bring in the treasures of nature to share with her students. But she taught her young students much more than just lessons in math, or reading or biology. She taught them about life.
Teachers at the school are struggling to cope with the loss of not only Mrs. Lockwood but fellow teacher Valerie L. Mazza, 47, a reading specialist at Monroe Road Elementary. Mrs. Lockwood and Mrs. Mazza died within hours of each other on Thursday. Mrs. Mazza died from complications from a blood clot. Mrs. Lockwood died of breast cancer.
"These were just uncommon women. They truly embodied the spirit of teaching. They were selfless and so giving both to their fellow staff members and to their students," said Barbara Sloan who worked with both of them. "It is a terrible loss for us."
Mr. Graf added: "It's been a pretty rough couple days for our staff."
A graduate of DeVilbiss High School, Mrs. Lockwood earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Toledo and a master's degree from Spring Arbor College in Michigan,
A talented artist, Mrs. Lockwood loved nature and enjoyed working in her flower garden. "There was an artistic touch to everything she did," Miss Wexler said.
Mrs. Lockwood served as a union representative with the Bedford Education Association at the building level and as a negotiator at the table.
Relatives recalled that after spending long days or nights negotiating on behalf of her fellow teachers, Mrs. Lockwood would take time to bake cookies for a class celebration the next day.
"She was very well liked. People had so much admiration for the way she handled everything for the last four and half years," said her mother Patricia Born. "She was fun to be with. She was like my husband. She never had anything bad to say about anyone," said Mrs. Born.
Mrs. Lockwood is survived by her husband, Stephen; daughters Leslie and Stephanie; mother Patricia Born; brothers, Mark and Wade Born, and granddaughter Avery.
Visitation will be from 2 to 9 p.m. Wednesday in Walker Funeral Home, 5155 Sylvania Ave. in Sylvania Township, where services will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday.
The family suggests tributes to the Susan B. Komen Foundation; to a scholarship fund for her granddaughter, checks payable to Monroe Road Elementary, 7979 Monroe Rd., Lambertville, MI 48144, or to a charity of the donor's choice.