Students recall teacher who subbed into her 90s
Family members and former students remember long-time Pleasant Valley teacher and substitute Sarah Jones. STACI L. GOWER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Family, friends and former students of Sarah Jones gathered Saturday to remember the longtime Pleasant Valley teacher.
Jones, who taught full-time at Pleasant Valley School District until 1987 and then substituted until 2015, died on Dec. 19, 2019. She was 97.
“She made school fun. She was very creative and had a sense of humor,” said Megan Dietz Deloye, PV class of 1998. “I can still hear her laugh in my head. I can’t duplicate it, but I remember it.”
Deloye said Jones was compassionate.
“She seemed like a third grandmother to me. I could confide in her. I couldn’t wait to get to school when she was subbing,” Deloye said. “Her heart was so big. She seemed to have room for everyone in her heart.”
She taught for nearly 70 years, spanning four generations of students, according to Steven Parisi. He and his wife, Tara, wrote and designed a four-page booklet, “A True Inspiration to All” that was distributed at the memorial service last week.
“I had her so many times as a substitute. She was a character. She could be teaching one subject and we’d talk to her about another topic. Her love was science,” said Shannon Jacobs, PV class of 1998.
According to Jones’ nephew Doug Metz, she was the most requested substitute at PV.
“Teaching is what kept her motivated,” he said.
As a substitute in her 90s, not one student gave Jones a problem, according to Dora Tartar, who retired from Pleasant Valley as a reading and language arts supervisor.
“She was wonderful. She always had stories to tell and brought in newspaper clips to keep kids up on current events,” Tartar said.
What happens if you swallow gum?
When Parisi, PV class of 2006, stood up in front to speak about Jones, he asked if anyone recalled what they had learned in eighth grade and from whom.
“Sarah came in and taught stuff that stuck. She was one of the best teachers ever,” he said.
A life lesson he learned from her is what happens to gum if swallowed.
“She always said, “you’ll either throw it up or it’ll never come out,” Parisi said.
Almost all her students knew that Jones’ pet peeve was gum chewing. She would make the perpetrator spit the gum in her hand and she’d toss it in the garbage.
“My son Wayne had her for a substitute and he got in trouble for it,” Jones said.
Witty and funny
Her wit and sense of humor were present in the classrooms and in the hallway.
“In her 80s, two kids were fighting in the hallway. She put herself in the middle and asked if she could hug them. The boys were astonished. They just walked away,” said Metz.
Later the principal asked if Jones had been afraid of getting hurt. She responded that she did not care about herself, but more so about the boys’ well-being, Metz said.
In a story shared by Parisi, Jones saw “a big football player kissing a girl by the locker. Sarah asked him if he’d like to kiss her too. He replied, ‘no, it would be disrespectful.’ She told them to get back to class.”
Jones loved to talk and share stories.
“I can’t even pick a favorite memory of her. There are so many. She was like a mom to me. We spent a lot of time together. She came to my house every Wednesday for dinner,” said Pat Sieck, Jones’ friend for 20 years.
The two sat for countless hours talking about various subjects. They would talk until the middle of the night.
“She had tons of stories. She never lost that wit. Her mind didn’t get old, only her body did,” said Sieck.
Optimism despite strife
Parisi’s word for Jones is optimistic. He and Tara spent every Thursday with Jones.
“She would not talk about her problems or pain. She was more concerned about others’ well-being,” he said.
She was preceded in death by her husband, William, and their children, Cathy and Barry.
Jones survived three major car crashes and three robberies at her home, Metz said.
“She sat with a can of Raid for wasps next to her chair to use if she got robbed again,” said Sieck.
After one of the robberies, she told friends and the police that she wished the perpetrator would have knocked on her door and said they needed money. She would have given them cash without asking questions.
“She was generous beyond belief,” said Sieck. “She taught me to be optimistic always and see the good in people. She wanted to do what she could for them.”
About 17 years ago, an operation left Jones with a punctured esophagus. Jones could only eat pureed food and had to sleep sitting up in a chair.
Metz’s word for Jones is inspirational.
Jones inspired great-niece Natasha Lewis to continue her studies to become a teacher. She works at Whitehall-Coplay Middle School.
Jones lived in Saylorsburg for more than 60 years, where she enjoyed gardening and taking care of her property.
“Even in her early 90s, I would see her mowing her lawn in the summer and shoveling snow in the winter,” said Parisi.
Devoted to her faith
The Parisis, Sieck and Marlene Fehr became close friends with Jones through their shared commitment to the Kingdom Hall in Brodheadsville. Jones became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1952.
Steven Parisi fondly remembers studying the Bible with his mom and Jones when he was younger.
During the last year of Jones’ life, family members and friends from Kingdom Hall took shifts caring for Jones. She also had a visiting nurse.
“My daughter makes homemade soup that Sarah loved. She’d put it in the blender,” said Fehr, who sat with Jones Tuesday afternoons.
Fehr said Jones was like an aunt, mother and grandmother to everyone.
“I sat with her Sunday mornings. She would listen to her Jehovah worship on her phone. We’d talk, take her pills, water her plants and spend precious time together,” said Deborah Zarate, Jones’ niece.
Zarate is talking to PV officials about establishing a scholarship in Jones’ honor. To donate to the scholarship fund, make check payable to Deborah Zarate. She will set up an account for the funds and work with the school to establish criteria for the scholarship. Her address is 5501 Ayers Road, Easton, PA 18040.