Karen S. Muir, a former Anne Arundel County Public Schools social studies teacher who was active in Maryland Democratic politics, died of a brain hemorrhage at Corewell Health Ludington Hospital in Ludington, Michigan. The Annapolis resident was 74.
“Karen was just incredible, and it was a joy and a privilege to work with her,” said Carol Maid, a retired language arts teacher and close friend.
“We were at the same school on the same academic team together, planned together and worked with the same group of students,” Ms. Maid said. “She was brilliant, creative and fun. She was extremely dedicated to her teaching, and it was very important to her to have a safe teaching environment. She epitomized the teaching profession.”
Meg Kauder and Ms. Muir were not only colleagues at Arundel Middle School but friends for 34 years.
“She was very good working with middle school students,” Ms. Kauder said. “She looked at them as people and not as pains. She was loving, giving and very kind. She showed them the way to go.”
Ms. Muir and her husband, the Rev. Frederic Muir, former pastor of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis, had traveled to Michigan for a family event, when she was stricken.
Karen Kristine Sandstrom, daughter of Maj. Donald Gustave Sandstrom, a career Army officer, and Kaethe Bonnekamp Sandstrom, a homemaker, was born at the old Fort Wadsworth Hospital in Staten Island, New York.
She lived in Germany for a brief period while her father was stationed in Korea and then moved to Indianapolis when her father taught at what was then Fort Benjamin Harrison.
When she entered kindergarten in Indianapolis, she only spoke German, the Rev. Muir said.
After graduating from high school in Indianapolis, she attended Butler University on a four-year debate scholarship, where in 1970 she earned her bachelor’s degree in history and social studies. She obtained a master’s degree, also in social studies, from Butler.
Ms. Muir began her 40-year teaching career at the since-closed Lincoln Square Academy, a performing arts school in New York City.
From 1976 to 1983, she taught at public schools in Sanford, Maine, until moving to Annapolis when her husband was appointed pastor of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis.
In 1984, she joined the faculty of what was then known as George Fox Middle School, now Arundel Middle School in Odenton, where she taught eighth grade social studies.
“I was the school media specialist, and we worked together multiple times during the semester with her students’ research projects,” Ms. Kauder said. “And they achieved so much through her.”
Ms. Maid said: “The students spoke of her fondly and looked forward to her classes. She shared their concerns, and they knew she cared about them. She made sure they were aware of the world and tolerance.”
To bring the outside world into her classroom, Ms. Muir embraced the World Wise Schools program, which allowed students and teachers to correspond with Peace Corps volunteers.
In 1992, she told The Baltimore Sun she had selected the Central African Republic, “because Americans know little about the country, which is north of Zaire and the Congo and was a French territory until 1960.”
A Peace Corps volunteer, Judith Denny, who had worked in the country for two years, brought in slides that engendered questions from Ms. Muir’s students.
“I wanted students to see the many similarities we have with people from other countries and to see that differences often come about because of the environment in which a person lives,” Ms. Muir told The Sun.
“In textbooks, the people are just nameless faces, but by having Judith name them, call them her friends, they are able to see the people on a personal level,” Ms. Muir said.
She was recognized by the Peace Corps for her efforts to foster international awareness among her students. In 1991, then-Gov. William Donald Schaefer visited her classroom and students.
Ms. Muir wanted her students to understand the Holocaust and approached her colleague Ms. Maid with an idea.
“Her social studies students were also in my reading class, and what she proposed was a staged reading by the students of ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ before an audience,” Ms. Maid said.
“We were very proud of what the children did, and they did a beautiful job. And at the same time, it gave them confidence. She was the kind of person that just made everything better,” she said.
“Karen, Carol Maid and I would chaperone overnight trips to Manhattan, where we took the kids to museums and the New York and Brooklyn public libraries, which they never would have seen had Karen not sponsored the overnight program,” Ms. Kauder said.
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Ms. Muir was on the board of the National Council for the Social Studies from 2008 until her retirement in 2011.
“She always made you feel good when you walked into a room. You knew when you were around Karen, you were going to have a good time,” Ms. Maid said.
A resident of Annapolis’ Eastport neighborhood, Ms. Muir was active in Democratic politics and volunteered on the campaign staff for state Sen. Sarah Elfreth.
In recognition of her work as a precinct captain, she was presented the District 30 Democratic Club’s Sarah Flynn Do-Something Democratic Award in 2017.
An avid reader of mysteries, she attended the annual Bouchercon World Mystery Convention for more than 20 years.
A Memorial service will be held Sept. 24 at 3 p.m. at the Universalist Unitarian Church of Annapolis at 333 Dubois Road in Annapolis, where she was a longtime member.
In addition to her husband of 51 years, she is survived by a son, Andrew Sandstrom Muir of Annapolis; a daughter, Kristina Muir Hernandez of Brooklyn, New York; two sisters, Kathe “Bibi” Donna Sandstrom of New Paltz, New York, and Karalyn Sandstrom Young of Indianapolis; and two grandchildren.