Teresa O'Donnell, 94, taught third grade


Teresa A. O'Donnell, who taught third grade in Carroll County public schools for more than 30 years, died Sunday of kidney failure at Summerville at Westminster, an assisted-living facility. She was 94.

Mrs. O'Donnell began teaching third grade at Sykesville Elementary School in 1950 and, after the school closed in 1969, she worked at Eldersburg Elementary School.

She retired in 1975.

Considered an innovative teacher, Mrs. O'Donnell established learning stations in her classroom as an adjunct to traditional teaching methods.

"As part of a social studies class, they made and baked bread in the school cafeteria. They even shook up bottles of buttermilk in order to make butter to spread on the hot bread," said her daughter Kathleen Tallent of Eldersburg.

"We even made vegetable soup," said E. Pauline Wright, a longtime school aide and friend, who assisted Mrs. O'Donnell in her classroom.

"She was a wonderful lady who always had her kids at heart and did neat things with them in and out of the classroom. She was extremely kind but strict, and there was no foolishness in her classes," said Mrs. Wright, a Sykesville resident.

A childhood bout with polio didn't slow Mrs. O'Donnell, who learned to walk again by taking long walks with her father.

"She didn't let her polio deter her one bit," said Mrs. Wright.

Mrs. O'Donnell, who didn't drive, commuted to school by yellow school bus or by taxi, which would pick her up at her home in the morning and deliver her in the afternoon.

Teresa Fuller was born and raised on West Mulberry Street in downtown Baltimore.

She graduated from Eastern High School and earned her teaching certificate in 1923 from the old Towson Normal School, now Towson University. She began teaching that year in Baltimore public schools, where she taught until 1930.

She was married that year to Thomas P. O'Donnell Jr., a construction worker, who died in 1972.

"She had hoped one day to return to school and get her certification and attend Johns Hopkins University and Towson State. However, she had to leave school after she began experiencing failing eyesight," said Mrs. Tallent.

"She used to say that she hoped her epitaph would read: 'Here lies Teresa O'Donnell/She died certified,' " said the daughter.

"I prefer to say, 'Here lies Teresa O'Donnell/She lived certified,' " she said.

An avid reader, Mrs. O'Donnell also enjoyed sewing, vegetable gardening, canning and playing the piano.

She had been a local coordinator for Common Cause and carried on a vigorous correspondence on public issues with elected officials, said family members.

She had been a grand regent of the Catholic Daughters of America at Holy Family Roman Catholic Church in Randallstown.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. today at St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church, 915 Liberty Road, Eldersburg.

Mrs. O'Donnell is survived by two other daughters, Agnes Muhl of Catonsville and Mary Ada Pearce of Carney; two sons, Thomas P. O'Donnell III of Canton, Ohio, and William K. O'Donnell of West Friendship; a sister, Mary Burch of Lutherville; 20 grandchildren; 27 great-grandchildren; and two great-great-grandchildren.

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