Dr. Thomas Sferes, a dedicated educator who taught foreign language programs at Kennebunk High School, Biddeford Middle School and the University of New England, died Friday. He was 72.

Mr. Sferes, of Kennebunk, was remembered Tuesday as a compassionate, innovative and inspiring teacher who made a difference in his student’s lives.

He began his career in 1967 as a Spanish teacher at Nathan Hale Jr. High School in Connecticut. He then taught at Brien McMahon High School in Norwalk, Connecticut, from 1972 to 1975.

Mr. Sferes joined Kennebunk High School in 1975, where he taught Spanish and German and served as department chair for many years.

Mary “Polly” Sferes, his ex-wife, longtime friend and former colleague, said he was a great teacher who had a passion for foreign languages.

“He was very compassionate with the kids,” she said. “He was very innovative. He came up with all these great ways to get kids to learn about foreign languages. … The students loved him.”


Jane Matheson, chair of Kennebunk’s foreign language department, said he was involved in various school initiatives and advocated for foreign language programs at the middle and elementary schools.

“Tom was a great guy … super-dedicated to his students,” Matheson said. “He was extremely hardworking. He took kids on trips to Spain and (on) theater tours. He was always trying to get the kids involved in things. He was interested in them as individuals and tried to make connections with them. He wasn’t just the teacher teaching a subject. He liked to be involved in what they were doing.”

Mr. Sferes retired in 2003, but didn’t sit still for long. In 2004 he began teaching Spanish at Biddeford Middle School. And throughout his teaching career, he was a part-time professor at the University of New England. He worked there for 30 years, including teaching Spanish for 15 years. He also worked in the undergraduate/graduate teacher certification and the master’s of education programs.

He retired from UNE in 2011, and taught at Biddeford Middle School until his passing.

Mr. Sferes received numerous awards for his work, including the Milken Educator Award from the Maine Department of Education.

Outside the classroom, Mr. Sferes had passions for traveling and architecture. He traveled to many Spanish-speaking countries, including Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Peru and Chile, and visited England, France, Italy, Germany and Austria. His last trip abroad was a transatlantic crossing to England aboard the Queen Mary 2. He traveled often with his former wife and their son, John Bowdoin Sferes, all of Kennebunk.

His son reminisced Tuesday about their trips to New York City when he was a child. He recalled their trip to Washington, D.C., and staying on Capitol Hill. They visited landmarks such as the White House, the Capitol Building and the Washington and Lincoln monuments.

“He would just go all-out to make sure I saw all the big sights. He was a really fun guy to be with,” his son said. “The thing that makes me happy is that he did everything he wanted to do (in life). A lot of people don’t get that opportunity. He had no regrets.”

A celebration of life will be held from 3 to 7 p.m. May 14 at the Coastal House, 2128 Post Road in Wells.

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