Teresa Sanborn worked for nearly 30 years in the Portland Public Schools, often with students who needed extra support.

As a teacher, she worked primarily with at-risk students for a decade at the former Portland Regional Vocational School, now PATHS. She taught a “Life 101” class for special needs students.

At Lyman Moore Middle School, she was an education technician and taught history and led the in-school suspension tutoring program, said one of her two daughters, Beth Benson.

Benson described her mother as a stern but encouraging teacher who brought out the best in her students. Students confided in her mother, she said, who went above and beyond to help them.

“She held them accountable and loved them all,” Benson said. “She impacted thousands of students throughout her career.”

Sanborn died Jan. 8 from health issues caused by Powassan virus, a rare tick-borne disease. She was 70 and had retired from the Portland schools in 2015.


She learned she had contracted the virus in November 2019, after finding a tick on her cheek.

She was diagnosed with the virus at Mass General Hospital, where she was transported by LifeFlight after four days at Northern Lights Mercy Hospital. Sanborn spent several months in the hospital, where she suffered multiple organ failure, a heart attack and encephalitis, said Benson, of Windham. Sanborn returned home in October 2020 after a short stint in a rehabilitation facility.

“She’s a miracle in the fact that she lived as long as she did and fought as hard as she did,” her daughter said.

Teresa Sanborn with her husband, Mark, and their two daughters, Jen, second from left, and Beth. Courtesy photo

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cases of Powassan virus are rare in the United States, with about 25 cases reported each year since 2015. Humans become infected with Powassan through the bite of an infected deer tick or woodchuck tick. Maine recorded three cases of Powassan virus in 2021 and one confirmed case in 2020.

Sanborn shared her experience battling Powassan in a WMTW news report, which aired in July. In the televised piece, she sat in a camping chair next to her husband, Mark, and described her ongoing struggles with memory loss, shortness of breath and balance. Benson said her mother gave the interview in the hope it might spread awareness of the virus and save someone’s life.

“I’m getting tired of sitting,” Sanborn said in the interview. “I want to go. I want to do stuff. I want to be able to spend time with my family and have fun.”


Sanborn grew up in Westbrook, the oldest of four children of Donald and Harriet Caron, of Gorham. She was a loving wife and mother of two daughters, Benson and Jen Greslick, of Windham.

In her obituary, she was remembered as a giving person who loved to cook, cross-stitch and do crossword puzzles. Most of all, she loved reading and giving books to kids.

She was an active member of St. Mary’s Church in Westbrook and Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Windham. For many years, she taught Sunday school and served as a youth group leader and co-music director.

“The teacher in her was always there,” said her sister, Lisa Tanguay of Gorham. “She loved teaching the kids. She loved helping them in any way she could.”

Tanguay said her sister always looked forward to spending time with family.

“She left a legacy with us,” Tanguay said. “Anytime her grandkids came to visit, she enjoyed buying books for them. She was so thrilled to pass on her love of reading to the kids.”

Benson said her mother was her best friend.

“She was supportive and always knew how to cheer me up,” her daughter said. “When I needed a hug, she gave me one and knew what to say to make me feel better. We couldn’t have asked for a better mom.”

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