Long after they had left her John Muir Elementary classroom, many students have come back over the years just to say hello to teacher Sally Horton.
Horton – a Redmond resident who taught in the Lake Washington School District for 22 years and most recently third grade at John Muir – passed away of breast cancer with her family at her side Wednesday, April 15. She was 60 years old.
“She would get invited to high school graduation parties from students she had years previously,” said John Muir Principal Jeff DeGallier, who knew Horton almost four years. “That’s a pretty special teacher who gets that invitation and it was not uncommon for that to happen to Sally.”
DeGallier described the third grade teacher as a “tough-minded optimist” who had that “sixth sense about what it takes to get a child to do it – Sally was a master teacher in that respect.”
Horton also inspired DeGallier.
“She was the kind of teacher who, when she’d drive home, was thinking about what she did today and how she might do it better tomorrow for kids.”
Her husband of 33 years, Steven said Horton “just had that way of touching people.”
Horton was born Sept. 24, 1948 in Culver City, Calif. to Mel and Mary Singer.
She met Steven on a blind date in 1975. They married six months later, in August. While raising their two daughters, Horton also worked in the Right to Read Program, teaching adults literacy skills at Boise State University.
In 1980, the family moved to Education Hill in Redmond and have lived there ever since. Horton taught at Carl Sandburg Elementary School for four years in the early 80s, and started teaching at John Muir in 1991.
“She taught every grade except first in the Lake Washington School District,” added Steven, who is also a special education teacher in the Edmonds School District.
Ten years ago, Horton was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was in remission for a number of years before doctors found the cancer had spread to her pelvis and abdomen last February. She underwent chemotherapy and was able to teach up until Jan. 30 this year.
“She was going in for a treatment … and was immediately hospitalized,” recalled DeGallier of Horton’s last day at John Muir. “That was one of the most difficult things for Sally in the last months was that she had no closure with her kids and that really tore her up because she was so into her kids.”
So the 17 students in Horton’s third grade class this year did a video wishing her well that she was able to watch.
She died April 15 at home with her husband and family next to her, peacefully in her sleep, Steven said.
When asked what is one thing he thought his wife would want students to remember, he said “just pay attention and do the little, simple things we all need to do. We are always someone else’s hero just by showing up and doing what we can. She would want students to do their very best always.”
Horton’s funeral was held April 22 at the Cedar Lawn Cemetery in Redmond.
Her family also invites members of the school community to join them in a memorial service to be held in the school gym on Saturday, May 2 at 10 a.m. The address is 14012 132nd Ave. N.E. in Kirkland. During the memorial, John Muir kindergarten teacher Susan Cotton will sing “Rainbow Connection” and the community will be able to view the video of Horton’s third grade students. The event will be followed by a celebration walk to Horton’s classroom.
Horton is survived by her husband, Steven, daughters Anna and Stephanie; and son-in-laws Andy Ryan and David Unger.
Remembrances may be made to: Susan G. Komen for the Cure, 5005 Lyndon B. Johnson Freeway, Suite 250, Dallas TX 75244.