Sally Moneda, a longtime elementary-school teacher in Seattle who inspired students to be creative, died of ovarian cancer on Thursday. She was 47.
Whether it was a lesson about the Oregon Trail or the annual fifth-grade play that she directed, Sally Moneda inspired creativity in her students and lived in their memories long after they’d left her classroom.
“She was one of those teachers who stood out because of her passion for kids,” said Jennifer Doherty, whose two daughters were students in Mrs. Moneda’s innovative, team-taught, multi-grade classroom at Loyal Heights Elementary School in Seattle.
Mrs. Moneda died in Seattle on Thursday (Jan. 3) of ovarian cancer. She was 47.
Sally Moneda grew up in Sedro-Woolley, graduating in 1983 from Sedro-Woolley High School.
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She earned a degree in broadcasting from Western Washington University in 1987 and worked at KIRO-TV as a news writer and librarian, said her sister Dawn Nilsen.
But Mrs. Moneda decided she wanted to work with children and returned to the University of Washington, where she earned a master’s degree in education in 2003. She wrote her thesis on how children learn math, Nilsen said, because math had been her hardest subject.
Mrs. Moneda did her student teaching at Loyal Heights and never left. For the past 10 years, she taught a third-fourth-fifth-grade class with John Hamel that became one of the most sought-out in the school — in part because of the energy and dedication of the teachers.
“She was an extremely hard worker who was always looking to improve and learn,” Hamel said.
Mrs. Moneda could seem strict and businesslike, he said, yet was also sensitive and able to connect immediately with kids.
Their classroom became known for its active learning. The teachers held an Oregon Trail Museum Night, in which students told their parents and other visitors about the history of stopping places along the trail. They organized a Medieval Night, with a castle that had to be entered through a drawbridge, a banquet hall for royalty and a curtain that opened onto the lives of peasants.
Denise Bundow said her daughter was very shy when she entered Mrs. Moneda’s class as a third-grader, but the teacher “figured out how each child could be challenged but not intimidated.”
Her daughter, she said, “did stuff I could never have imagined.”
Mrs. Moneda was also an accomplished athlete, running half-marathons, kayaking, skiing and playing volleyball.
She met her future husband, Willie Moneda, at a singles event for Christians.
On their first date, he said, she rode her bike to his office in downtown Seattle and the two of them went for a run.
A year after they married in 2004, the couple co-founded Sandbox Sports, an indoor beach-volleyball center now in Georgetown.
Mrs. Moneda was diagnosed with cancer three days after school started in 2010. Colleague said she saw her illness as an opportunity to talk with the children about life, about what happens when someone has cancer and how they could help and support each other.
“She used it to educate students that there are some things we can’t control, that everyone dies and we don’t know when that will happen, but that it’s a part of life. She helped prepare them for the world,” Hamel said.
The school organized a “Team Moneda” for the 2010 Seattle Marathon to support their teacher and raise money for cancer research. Hamel said several hundred students, parents and staff members participated.
Mrs. Moneda was with her husband and sister aboard the Monedas’ 45-foot motor yacht at Shilshole Marina when she died.
The couple bought the boat in October so Mrs. Moneda could spend her last days on the water, her husband said.
They christened it “Eucharisteo,” a name Mr. Moneda said meant lifelong thanksgiving, grace and joy.
In addition to her husband and sister Dawn, of Ferndale, Mrs. Moneda is survived by a stepson, Kevin Moneda, of Seattle; her parents, Tom and Beverly Peterson, of Sedro-Woolley; brothers Tony Ehlert, of Sedro-Woolley, and Tom Zehrung, of Beaumont, Texas; and sister Teresa Potashner, of San Diego. She was preceded in death by brother Darrell Ehlert, of Sedro-Woolley.
A graveside service is planned for 11 a.m. Saturday in Sedro-Woolley. A memorial service will be at 2 p.m. Jan. 19 at Mars Hill Church in Ballard.
Lynn Thompson: 206-464-8305 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @lthompsontimes.