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Remembering Sarah Herz

Sarah Herz — a gifted, demanding yet beloved English teacher at Bedford and Coleytown Middle Schools, and Staples High, who made a national mark as a pioneering advocate for young adult literature — died Thursday at home, after a long battle with cancer. She was 83.

Sarah was an avid supporter of the arts; a swimmer, traveler, longtime feminist and active League of Women Voters member.

Her friend and colleague, former Staples English instructor Dr. Gerry Kuroghlian, offers this tribute: 

Mythological goddesses are eternal. But those born of man pass away.

Sarah Herz

Perhaps bringing up her own teens, Kate and Mark, gave Sarah Herz the willpower and determination to become a national advocate for the inclusion of young adult literature in middle and high school classrooms.

Perhaps simply understanding her students and their problems propelled her to include books dealing with the ups and downs of being a teen in today’s world.

Whatever her motivation, Sarah’s role as a teacher in Westport spurred her on a nationwide odyssey for the National Council of Teachers of English to bring teachers and authors together, to discuss books that young people would devour.

Her goal was to form bridges between the everyday problems of teen life, and great works of literature. With University of Connecticut professor Don Gallo, Sarah wrote From Hinton to Hamlet: Bridges Between Young Adult Literature and the Classics. The book helped change the scope of teen reading forever.

As a reviewer for major publishing houses, Sarah read hundreds of books a year. She annotated and recommended titles for almost every situation in adolescent life. Her reviews helped library media specialists and teachers select relevant material.

Perhaps more importantly, she then sent the books to school libraries in Bridgeport, where they inspired students to read. Kolbe Cathedral credits Mrs. Herz with doubling the number of books checked out from the library.

As a vice president of the Westport Education Association, Sarah was forthright in her ideas for classroom change.

I was fortunate to be Sarah’s colleague and friend, and witness the impact she had on students, teachers and curricula. In my life’s teaching odyssey Sarah served as my own Athena, wearing the helmet of knowledge, holding the owl of wisdom and wielding the spear of change. She will be missed by many, but her legacy of increasing literacy lives on.

Sarah is survived by her husband of 61 years, Stephen of Westport; her son Mark Herz of New Haven, and daughter Kate Herz, son-in-law Paul Ballew and grandsons Jacob and Elijah, all of Brooklyn. 

A memorial service will be held in Westport. Charitable contributions may be sent to The Mercy Learning Center (637 Park Avenue, Bridgeport, CT 06604). 

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