Officials at Thornton Academy have canceled today’s classes in honor of Laura Wolfahrt, a popular English teacher who died Friday. She was 58.

The school’s students and faculty will gather this morning to celebrate and remember Mrs. Wolfahrt, who taught at the academy in Saco for the past 24 years.

She taught English to nearly every grade over the course of her career. For the past several years, she taught English to the senior class.

Carl Stasio, the headmaster, said Monday that school officials canceled today’s classes out of respect for Mrs. Wolfahrt and so her colleagues could attend her funeral.

Stasio said some faculty members worked with Mrs. Wolfahrt for the past 15 to 20 years. He said about 15 of the school’s teachers had her as their English teacher.

It’s the first time in his 25 years at Thornton that the school has shut down because of the death of a faculty member, he said.

“She was somewhat of an iconic person,” Stasio said. “Her purpose in life was to engage kids in the study of literature and reading and writing. She pushed kids to the limit in terms of getting them involved in literature.”

School officials held an assembly Monday morning to inform students of Mrs. Wolfahrt’s death. The school was closed Friday, the day she died, because of a snowstorm.

One of her closest friends, Amy Glidden, an English teacher at Thornton, told students at Monday’s assembly that Mrs. Wolfahrt was always their “champion.” She said her passing is a big loss to the school and the community.

“(She) spent her life in the classroom, trying to instill the lessons and values that we all can learn while curled up on a comfy couch with a good book,” Glidden said in a prepared speech to the students. “She taught her students how to discern the message of an author, how to articulate a point in class discussion, and how to write cohesively and intelligently. … Laura’s biggest lesson to us all is one of friendship, commitment and compassion.”

Mrs. Wolfahrt, a Biddeford resident, graduated from Thornton Academy in 1970. She began her teaching career in Ellsworth in 1978, then returned to her alma mater to teach in 1987.

She was married to Dean Wolfahrt for 37 years. She also leaves a son, Jeffrey Wolfahrt of Biddeford.

She was remembered by her husband Monday as a fun-loving and outgoing woman who had a lifelong passion for learning. He said that when they went on vacations, she brought a suitcase for clothes and another for her books.

Her husband said she was his best friend.

“We were a great team,” he said. “We really liked each other. I’ll miss going to the beach with her, sitting down for the day to read a book. (We would) split a sandwich. I’ll miss her telling me not to get too much sand in the crackers.”

About seven months ago, Mrs. Wolfahrt was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, a type of cancer on the base of her tongue. Her husband said the cancer left her unable to communicate.

“The frustration was severe, but she dealt with it with a great deal of grace,” he said.

Mrs. Wolfahrt’s funeral will be followed by a reception at Thornton Academy.

 

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at: [email protected]