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Published: Sunday, 7/20/2008

Teacher nurtured, counseled students

Ann Stvartak, 63, a Sherman Elementary School teacher the last 19 years whose passion inspired students and colleagues alike, died Thursday in the Hospice of Northwest Ohio, Perrysburg Township, of cancer.

She missed the last two weeks of school because of her illness.

"That was hurting her the worst, that she couldn't go back and finish the school year," her son David said.

Mrs. Stvartak of Oregon most recently was teamed in fifth grade with teachers Kellie Haynes, Deb Essing and, before her retirement, Carol Steinhurst.

"She drew her energy from the kids," Mrs. Haynes said. "Even when she was sick, when she was tired, as soon as the kids walked in, up she'd pop. She was on it 100 percent."

Mrs. Stvartak radiated that energy back. If a student said something funny, she might say, "'That sounds like a song,' and start singing," Mrs. Haynes said. "She was unbelievable every day."

She could be stern and, at 5-feet, 11-inches tall, "she had that presence," her son said.

He added that before each school year, she loaded up her car with supplies for students in need.

Mrs. Haynes said that Sherman teachers "realize we have to be more than teachers."

Some students from the school's North Toledo neighborhood might arrive hungry or not have supplies or adequate clothing because their family couldn't afford them.

"Ann always knew that she would have to nurture and teach at the same time," Mrs. Haynes said.

Even before Sarah Gurzynski, now 20, was in Mrs. Stvartak's class, the teacher counseled her on problems at home.

"She was the mother a lot of kids didn't have," Ms. Gurzynski said. "That was her passion - to help kids and encourage kids and inspire kids."

The teaching team spoke on the phone daily before school. At lunch, Mrs. Stvartak might advise the others of a student who was having a difficult day. The team sometimes wore matching sweaters to school and went to plays and movies together after work.

"The kids loved it because they saw the camaraderie," Mrs. Haynes said.

Mrs. Stvartak was a 1962 graduate of Bedford High School. In 1976, she became a teacher's aide at Birmingham Elementary School, where her sons were students.

She actively supported efforts of the Toledo Federation of Teachers to ensure contractual benefits for paraprofessionals. She also worked at Glendale-Feilbach Elementary School and Scott High School.

She received a bachelor's of education degree in 1989 from the University of Toledo.

She was formerly married to John F. Stvartak.

Surviving are her sons, John Keith Stvartak and David Stvartak; father, Edward Donbrosky; brothers, Edward, Ron, Rich, Ken, and Martin Donbrosky; sisters, Joyce Harrison, Nancy Mills, Bonnie Mangus, and Kim Willcutt, and three grandchildren.

Services will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday in the Michael W. Pawlak Funeral Home, Temperance, where the body will be after 5 p.m. tomorrow.

The family suggests tributes to the Ann Stvartak Early Educational Trust in care of any Key Bank.



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