Dorothy G. Hamilton, a noted educator who developed learning programs for teachers working with educationally disadvantaged children, died Monday of thymoma, a rare cancer of the thymus gland, at Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care. The Columbia resident was 77.
She was born Dorothy Gettel in Baltimore and raised in Govans. She was exposed to nontraditional teaching methods at an early age when she attended Campus Elementary School - later Lida Lee Tall School - from 1934 to 1940, on the campus of what is now Towson University.
Dr. Hamilton was a 1946 graduate of Eastern High School and earned her bachelor's degree in education from Towson University in 1950. She earned a master's degree in educational supervision and curriculum from Columbia University in 1959, and her doctorate from the University of Southern California in intercultural education and educational psychology in 1978.
In 1950, Dr. Hamilton began teaching in Baltimore public schools, and the next year transferred to Baltimore County public schools, where she was a teacher and curriculum coordinator at Carroll Manor, Scotts Branch, Stoneleigh and Rodgers Forge elementaries.
She worked in New York City as a religious educator for the Board of American Missions of the United Lutheran Church of America for a year before returning to Baltimore County public schools in 1956.
In 1961, she married Charles Edward Hamilton Sr., an educator who later became director of the federal Title I program for Baltimore County public schools.
From 1965 to 1969, Dr. Hamilton taught at Myersville Elementary School in Frederick County. After her husband was appointed superintendent of public schools in Burlington, Vt., in 1969, she taught for four years at an elementary school there.
In 1973, the couple moved to Gaithersburg, and she began teaching in Montgomery County public schools.
She later was promoted to staff development instructor, training specialist, curriculum writer and resource teacher.
"These positions allowed her to share her knowledge of effective teaching methods with her professional colleagues throughout the country," said her son, Charles E. Hamilton Jr. of Seattle.
Dr. Hamilton traveled throughout the nation, Canada, Japan, the Virgin Islands, Germany, Turkey and China, presenting workshops on educational topics.
After her 1990 retirement, she and her husband established Hamilton Associates, an educational consulting firm. Mr. Hamilton died in 2004. Dr. Hamilton was a consultant to Montgomery County's Program of Assessment Diagnosis and Instruction, also called PADI.
"She developed programs and techniques for PADI that helped classroom teachers bring disadvantaged children to the levels needed so they could take part in programs for the gifted," her son said.
Donnelly Gregory, retired coordinator of teacher development for Montgomery County public schools, said she worked with Dr. Hamilton for about a quarter-century and was familiar with her technique for working with disadvantaged children.
"These were educationally or culturally disadvantaged kids who weren't expected to do so well. We would screen kindergarten and first-grade students to find their abilities and through this process we'd find what skills and strengths they had and their potential," Mrs. Gregory said.
"Dorothy would go from school to school demonstrating to teachers how they could gear their teaching toward helping these kids become gifted students," she said. "She was a vigorous person who kept the students in the classroom spellbound and challenged. She had very powerful techniques, and because she was an outstanding teacher, she changed thousands of them who saw her work."
"She developed a system she called Picture Thoughts, which was used by teachers to integrate art appreciation into other disciplines. For example, she'd use a painting as a starting point of a discussion of the science behind the weather depicted in the image," her son said.
Dr. Hamilton, who also used classical music in teaching other subjects, was the author of Picture Thoughts: Critical Thinking Through Visual Arts, published in 1989.
Dr. Hamilton's work earned her the 1980 Judith Ruchkin Research Award for her dissertation on cooperative learning from the Maryland Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. In 1981, the National Science Teachers Association presented her with its Ohaus Award for developing an innovative science curriculum.
In 1987, Dr. Hamilton was named Montgomery County Public Schools' Outstanding Teacher of the Gifted.
Dr. Hamilton, who retired in 2001, enjoyed collecting art, traveling and reading.
She was an active member of the Lutheran Church of the Living Word, 5885 Robert Oliver Place, Columbia, where a memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday.
Also surviving are two sisters, Joy Wheeler of Towson and Jean Reier of York, Pa.