JETTA FRASER Enlarge
ERIE - By all accounts, Jenny Steingass was a dedicated English teacher who deeply cared about students.
A teacher for nearly 19 years at Mason Senior High School, Mrs. Steingass, 42, died in March after a long battle with melanoma cancer.
Among her final wishes was to have the teacher and staff lounge at the school renovated. That wish was fulfilled last week.
To get that makeover accomplished, she had instructed her husband, Christopher Stein-gass, also a teacher, to give money to the school to get the work done.
"This was an important place for her," Mr. Steingass, who is dean of academics at St. Francis High School in Toledo, said.
Mrs. Steingass, the mother of two boys, ages 13 and 15, began teaching at Mason Senior High School immediately after she graduated from the University of Toledo in June, 1990.
She taught English literature, the first of that type taught at the school, as well as advance placement classes in English and calculus, and was the adviser for the school's cultural club.
She also taught classes in the summer at St. Francis High School, where the couple's oldest son is a student.
A potluck luncheon and open house was held last week after the teacher's convocation at the school.
Teachers, custodians, and other staff gathered with Mr. Steingass, who remarked that his late wife would have loved the paint scheme, especially the burnt orange that matched the color in their bedroom.
Jo Ann Spicer, high school principal, said staff and teachers were asked for ideas on how to revamp the room.
Suggestions ranged from a 42-inch plasma television to a reclining massage chair. Mrs. Spicer said the extravagant ideas were put aside for more practical ones.
"We wanted to do something that would impact the whole staff," she said.
The floor was replaced with stained hard wood, the walls and ceiling painted, and cabinets were recycled and covered with new laminate countertops. New chairs were purchased for the existing dining tables.
Staff and a hand full of students volunteered their labor for the project. Claudia Sauer, the high school art teacher, painted a special piece for the room.
Mrs. Spicer said students Bridgett Warthen, Suzzie Fisher, and James Wolard painted the interior of the room, and were among the many students Mrs. Steingass impacted in the classroom.
Scarlette Phillips, an administrative assistant, and her husband, Wynne Phillips, who is a school board member, spent many hours in the remodeling effort.
Mrs. Spicer said the Steingasses didn't put restrictions on how the money was to be used, only that it improve the lounge to make a positive impact on the staff.
"We are not going to let her memory go. Every day that lounge will be a reminder of how special she was," she said.