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Published: Monday, 4/28/2008

Science teacher known for ability to engage students

Deborah A. Stager, 56, who taught science at Arbor Hills Junior High in Sylvania for 30 years, died Saturday in the Hospice of Northwest Ohio, Perrysburg Township.

Her death followed a nearly five-year battle with ovarian cancer, her husband, Rick, said.

Mrs. Stager spent her entire career at Arbor Hills, where she taught seventh-grade life science and was known for her upbeat attitude and ability to captivate students through creative hands-on activities.

"She was not a teacher who would just read out of the book," as her husband put it.

In 2001, she became the first teacher in the Sylvania school district to receive certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

Mrs. Stager went on to become a mentor for other teachers who were working toward their certification, recalled Patricia Corrigan, a longtime colleague.

"Debby was the consummate teacher. She was very knowledgeable in her subject matter and totally enthusiastic in sharing her knowledge," Mrs. Corrigan said.

She made a concerted effort through the years to break stereotypes and help girls in her classes develop an interest in science. Each year, Mrs. Stager took many of her female students to a program at Bowling Green State University, her alma mater, that focused on science careers.

She also was a moderator for quiz bowl.

"Science was such a huge passion for her. We could be working on the smallest experiment, but she would be so excited and energized about it, and she wanted to pass on that excitement to her students," said Josh Stedcke, a fellow science teacher.

Mrs. Stager was undergoing chemotherapy treatment during the last two school years before her retirement in 2005. On several occasions, she used her illness to illustrate a lesson plan.

"Somehow she found the energy to teach every day while she was going through chemo. I don't know how she did it," said Mr. Stager, the acting chief of police for Oregon.

Mrs. Stager also served for nearly two years as chairman of the Oregon Relay for Life, the cancer research fund-raiser held at Clay High School. Her son, Eric Stager, has taken over for his mother in preparation for the June event.

Born in Lyons, Ohio, she was one of three children of Beverly and Ludlow Seaman, who owned gas and hardware businesses. In 1970, she graduated from Evergreen High School in Metamora, Ohio, where she met her husband.

Mrs. Stager received a bachelor's degree in education from BSGU in 1974, the same year she married, and later a master's degree from the University of Toledo. She and her husband raised two sons and lived in Oregon.

Surviving are her husband, Rick; sons, Eric and Ryan; sister, Denise Golden; brother, Lud Seaman, and two grandchildren.

Visitation will be after 2 p.m. Wednesday in the Eggleston Meinert Pavley Funeral Home, Oregon Chapel. Services will begin at 11 a.m. Thursday in Heritage Christian Church, Oregon.

The family suggests tributes to the Oregon Relay for Life in care of the American Cancer Society.

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