Cheryl L. Neugebauer, an award-winning reading specialist who embraced the challenge of helping students improve their reading skills, died Oct. 9 of a blood clot at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The Ellicott City resident was 34.
Cheryl Leigh "Junie" Moher was born and raised in Scranton, Pa., and graduated from Abington Heights High School in 1992.
She earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education from the University of Scranton in 1996, and a master's degree in reading from the Johns Hopkins University in 2002.
After teaching at Park Heights Elementary School for three years, Mrs. Neugebauer joined the faculty of Halethorpe Elementary School as a second-grade teacher in 1999.
Since 2004, she had been the school's reading specialist.
"She was absolutely passionate about working with kids - especially those who might be struggling - to raise their reading skills," said Jill Bordenick, principal of Halethrope Elementary.
"She knew they couldn't afford to give up, and she'd use alternative strategies and other methods to help them learn," she said. "She could get kids engaged, and they just loved her."
Ms. Bordenick described Mrs. Neugebauer's classroom as being filled with materials and resources that were available to both students and teachers.
"It was a very visually stimulating place," she said.
Eventually, Mrs. Neugebauer's classroom and students were moved to a portable classroom.
"She was not a quiet teacher," Ms. Bordenick said, laughing. "She loved being out there because she could [keep] the kids animated and make all the noise she wanted."
Ms. Bordenick said Mrs. Neugebauer especially enjoyed preparing and presenting demonstration lessons for the staff.
"Mrs. Neugebauer somehow was everywhere ... on bus duty, overseeing breakfast, giving a child extra help, mentoring a teacher, guiding me through some difficult decision-making, working out a glitch, supporting a parent, giving more to a child," Mrs. Bordenick wrote in a note to parents and guardians.
"Whatever I asked her to do, she embraced it," Mrs. Bordenick said. "She's really irreplaceable, and it's going to be tough to find someone to fill her shoes because she absolutely loved what she was doing."
Jennifer A. Flynn, who teaches third grade at Halethorpe, was a friend for a decade.
"Her death is incomprehensible and a huge loss for our school. She was a very vibrant person and always the first person to want to help someone or volunteer for a committee," Ms. Flynn said.
"She always used positive, and never negative, reinforcement with her students. She could make the teaching of phonics, for instance, which could be bland and dry, fun and interesting," she said. "This was a gift at being able to get through to them."
Mrs. Neugebauer's work earned her a Teachers Association of Baltimore County Rookie of the Year Award in 2001.
Friends and colleagues recalled her as a gracious hostess who enjoyed working in her garden and on home-decorating projects.
She also liked swimming, skiing, reading and travel.
Mrs. Neugebauer was a communicant of the Roman Catholic Church of the Resurrection, 3175 Paulskirk Drive, Ellicott City, where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow.
Surviving are her husband of six years, Thomas Neugebauer, a civil engineer; a son, Connor J. Neugebauer, 3; her parents, Frank and Elayne Moher of Clarks Green, Pa.; three brothers, Chris Moher of Baltimore, Kevin Moher of Clarks Summit, Pa., and Dan Moher of Philadelphia; and her grandmother, Wanda Moher of Clarks Summit.