Sacred Heart High School has a number of customs and traditions that have been a part of the school’s history since its founding in 1941.
One individual, who was been a part of the school’s history is saying good bye this year but the impact she has had on countless individuals and generations of students will live on for decades to come.
After spending the last four decades of her life as a teacher at Sacred Heart, helping thousands of young minds understand the concepts of junior high math, Sharon Dey is retiring.
“I was born in Sedalia and I always wanted to teach school at Sacred Heart,” Dey recently said. “I taught for five years in public schools before I came here in 1976 when Father Vince Honye asked me to come here and work.
“I attended 25 different schools as a student but Sacred Heart was always my favorite,” Dey added. “As a kid I don’t think I could have told you that, but this is such a remarkable, friendly, comfortable place; it is a home to me.”
Dey grew up in a military family, which explains why she attended so many different schools as a child, but it is that military upbringing that has given Dey a better understanding of many of her students.
“My father was in the service and so when he was sent to Germany in 1945 we went with him,” Dey said. “I remember moving eight times when I was in the second grade alone; I was always antsy if we stayed in one place more than a year.
“When he retired he went on to teach at Marquette University and that’s where I went to college,” Dey added. “He put all nine of my brothers and sisters through college there.”
Dey, ironically enough did not receive her degree in mathematics, but instead began her career as a social studies teacher at Whitter in Sedalia.
“I taught for three years in Milwaukee after my graduation, from Marquette,” Dey said. “I idolized my grandmother who lived in Sedalia and I wanted to see her again, so I moved back here and lived with my grandmother and started teaching.
“My father was old school and told all of us that we were going to college but he also always told me that ‘girls don’t need math,’ but it was always my favorite subject to play with and so I decided I would teach myself Algebra II,” Dey added. “I love to read and study math books and still try to get my students to do the same.”
Dey took classes at both State Fair Community College and Central Missouri State University (UCM) to get her degree in math.
“Sharon is a true creation of her military upbringing,” Jane McMullin a 1987 graduate of Sacred Heart and a teacher at the school said. “She was my teacher in junior high and high school, and was my junior high basketball coach.
“Even then she had a reputation for being tough and always expecting the best of us,” McMullin added. “Like most of her students I was intimidated by her, but if you worked hard there was nothing she would not help you do to achieve.”
As McMullin said, Dey not only taught math at Sacred Heart but also coached a number of sports during her tenure at the school.
“I’ve retired from coaching five times here,” Dey said with a smile. “I’ve coached volleyball, softball, basketball, junior high basketball and was even the golf coach on Thursdays for one year.
“I loved this place so much that I was always willing to do whatever I could to help the school and the students,” Dey added.
Dr. Gary Manning, principal of Sacred Heart agrees that Dey goes above and beyond to help her students both in and out of the classroom.
“Ms. Dey is a dedicated individual and educator who I have had the great opportunity to work with these past two years,” Manning said. “She has been very instrumental in building up a strong math program at Sacred Heart and I will miss discussing her love of quilting and Marquette Basketball when she retires.”
Although Dey did not graduate high school at Sacred Heart, in the late 1980s she received an honorary diploma from the school and to this day considers herself an alumni of Sacred Heart.
“I want all of my students to feel as safe and secure here just as I did when I was a student,” Dey said. “It doesn’t matter how smart or popular a student may seem to be they all want the same thing and that is to be treated with dignity and respect.
“Some students wear it better than others but I think they all put up a veneer in front so they don’t get hurt,” Dey added. “I loved teaching junior high because it has been special to see them at 12, 13, 14 finding out who they were as people and now to see them helping other and giving back is such a memory.”
The impact of helping her students give back has been one of the most important parts of Dey’s career according to Mark Register who is an alumni of SHS and a former administrator at the school.
“Sharon Dey has been a talented and effective math and computer teacher to generations of Sacred Heart students,” Register said. “In fact I am in the firm conviction that my son Wesley, ( SHS class of 2011) was able to earn his degree as a mechanical engineer and enter that worthy profession, in large part to the stellar mathematical background he received from Ms. Dey in seventh and eighth grades.”
Even though Dey is leaving the classroom, she has no plans of completely leaving Sacred Heart saying she would sub in the future if the school needed her to do so, but for now, she is looking forward to devoting more time to her love of quilting.
“I think I have so much fabric in my house and so many ides that I can’t use it all up,” Dey said laughing. “I could probably open my own quilt shop.
“There are so many new ideas and things I want to try with my piecing and quilting,” Dey added. “I do know that one day a week I am going to work on my charity quilts.”
Dey commented that a friend who also quilts had mentioned once that, “all kids need something to hug.”
With that thought in mind, Dey began piecing unstuffed “bear skins” that are sent to California.
The skins are later stuffed and a number is placed on the pad of the bear’s feet.
“They give the bears to children whose parents are in the military or children who may be suffering from an illness,” Dey said. “The numbers are a way to track the bears and then we can write to each other and keep in touch.
“I also piece quilts for ‘Quilts of Valor’ which is an organization that gives the quilts to military service men who have served in wars,” Dey added. “Of course, I plan on piecing one quilt for the bazar this year too so I’ll be quite busy.”
When asked for advice for the newest generation of teachers and others Dey simply said be passionate about whatever one chooses to do.
“A person has to be passionate about what they do,” Dey said. “If you don’t, you won’t last in whatever you do because you won’t enjoy it.
“You really do have to have that passion and enjoyment to be happy,” she added. “For myself, it has been a joy and I don’t know where the 40 years went.”
McMullin, seemed to express the sentiment of many at the school about Dey and her commitment to Sacred Heart.
“I’m very blessed to know Sharon both as a student and a colleague,” McMullin said. “She has given a lifetime of service to Sacred Heart and is leaving behind an incredible legacy; she truly is an institution at SHS.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484