Jewell H. Makolin, an award-winning educator whose concern for academically challenged students led her to establish the special-education program in Carroll County public schools, died of Alzheimer's disease July 27 at a hospital in Garden Grove, Calif. The former longtime Westminster resident was 76.
Early in her career as a teacher, Mrs. Makolin wondered why several students in her class had difficulty learning math.
It wasn't until the 1960s, when educators began to understand the nature and complexity of learning disabilities, that they were able to teach students more effectively.
"It just confirmed what I had seen in a number of kids - there was something that got in the way of learning," she told The Sun in a 1992 article. "They were as bright as can be."
Mrs. Makolin, who retired in 1992, was the recipient of a National Pacesetter award from the U.S. Department of Education.
The career educator and author, born Jewell Haines, was raised in Woodbine. After graduating from Mount Airy High School in 1944, she earned her bachelor's degree in education from Western Maryland College, now McDaniel College, and a master's degree in special education from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.
Known as Judy, she began her teaching career in the late 1940s in Montgomery County and later taught severely disabled children in Michigan.
She was married in 1950 to the Rev. Albert A. Makolin, and while her husband attended the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg, Pa., she taught in local schools.
When her husband was pastor of Magothy-Chelsea Community Church in the 1960s, she was a guidance counselor at Severna Park High School.
She began her career with Carroll County public schools as a guidance counselor in 1963, and in the late 1960s was given a new assignment to establish a special-education department. Mrs. Makolin wrote the necessary grant proposals for federal funding.
She stressed the need for highly trained special-education teachers.
"I believe that a child who is handicapped can be more handicapped by the adult than by his handicap," Mrs. Makolin told The Sun in the interview.
Today, some 3,500 special-education students in Carroll County benefit from her vision. Every school in the county has programs that are available to them.
"She was way ahead of her time, and our program in Carroll County is top-notch because of her," said Jim Doolan, who was hired by Mrs. Makolin in 1970 as a special-education teacher.
"She was extremely devoted to her kids and was an advocate for them. Long before it was popular, she fought and demanded things for her kids. She helped mainstream students before federal laws were passed in the 1970s," he said.
Mrs. Makolin was known as a careful listener. She empathized with worried parents, listened to their concerns, and when they were upset, let them cry in her office. To ensure they had someone to turn to, she readily gave out her home phone number.
"She used to say, 'There are no bad kids, some just need a little more love than others.' She reached out and touched thousands and thousands of them," said Mr. Doolan, now director of transportation services for the school system.
"She moved the county forward," said Becky Erdeljac, principal of Winfield Elementary School. "She was supervisor of special-ed when I came here in 1972. She was my mentor, confidante and friend.
"She took a special interest not only in the children but their families. And she worked with both of them. She always had a ready smile and was very outgoing. She had to be to accomplish what she did," she said.
Mrs. Makolin, a gourmet cook, was active in St. Benjamin's (Krider's) Church, as well as St. John's Lutheran Church in Westminster, where her husband was pastor until his death in 1981.
She also was the author of Katie and Luther Speak, a book of historical research on the Lutheran church that was published in 1985 by Fairway Press.
Since 1997, Mrs. Makolin lived in Garden Grove.
Services were held Friday in Westminster.
Survivors include a daughter, Helen Makolin Haddad of Anaheim Hills, Calif.; a brother, Lowell T. Haines of Westminster; and several cousins.