Sharon L. Friedlander, a much beloved Baltimore County public schools special education teacher, died Jan. 24 of giant cell myocarditis, a rare disease that attacks the heart, at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
The longtime Pikesville resident was 59.
"Sharon had a smile and a 'Good morning' for everyone and greeted them whether she knew them or not. She was kind to every single person and you couldn't help but love her," said Connie J. Berman, a Baltimore County public schools special education teacher, colleague and a friend of 17 years.
"She had a way of making everyone feel important, worthy and special," said Ms. Berman. "You need a special heart to be a special education teacher, and she had it."
The daughter of Irvin Falk, retired owner of the Village Food Center in Cross Keys, and Bernice Falk, a homemaker, the former Sharon Lee Falk was born in Baltimore and raised on Bowers Avenue, and later Kenjac Road.
After graduating in 1972 from Randallstown High School, she earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Maryland, College Park. In 2003, she earned a master's degree in special education, also from the University of Maryland.
She began her teaching career in 1976 at Randallstown Elementary School, and in 1978, married Richard A. Friedlander.
Ms. Friedlander stopped teaching to raise her children and returned to the classroom in the late 1980s, when she began volunteering at Fort Garrison Elementary School, and then in the early 1990s, at Pikesville Middle School.
She became a part-time instructor in 1999 and became a full-time faculty member in 2001. From 2009 until her retirement last year, she supervised the Asperger's syndrome program at New Town High School in Owings Mills.
"Sharon came to be her students' strongest advocate. If they needed less or more services, or a less restrictive environment, she advocated for them. She was tremendous at this," said Ms. Berman, who shared a classroom with Ms. Friedlander at Pikesville Middle School.
"She was a very determined person and brought so much energy and drive to what she did," said Ms. Berman.
Long after her students had moved on, Ms. Friedlander kept in touch with them and their families.
Ms. Berman recalled the time she and Ms. Friedlander fulfilled a special education student's dream of visiting Disney World.
"He was a foster child and she had to get a court order so she could take him out of state," said Ms. Berman. "And she paid for everything."
"She was an amazing dedicated teacher and was Teacher of the Year numerous times for being such an exceptional special ed teacher," said David Nevins, a longtime friend.
"Her students and their parents became close friends. She was a person who lived her career. She was really one of the good ones and there wasn't a soul on earth that didn't love her," said Mr. Nevins.
Ms. Friedlander enjoyed playing mah-jongg and exercising.
"She loved yoga and walking and loved to walk all through the neighborhood," said her son, Brad L. Friedlander of Pikesville. "She also liked cooking and entertaining and was known for her matzo ball soup and salmon which she made all the time."
She was a member of Chizuk Amuno Congregation.
"But her greatest passion was being an advocate for her family and students," Brad Friedlander said.
Services were Jan. 26 at Sol Levinson & Bros. in Pikesville.
In addition to her husband, who is an accountant, and head of Rosen, Sapperstein & Friedlander, and son, Ms. Friedlander is survived by a daughter, Dr. Tracy Friedlander of Pikesville; her father, Irvin Falk of Pikesville; and a granddaughter.