At Booker T. Washington Middle School yesterday, students were asked to describe Sandra Ann Payton, who had been their family living instructor.
She never raised her voice, one student said. Always gave us a second chance, said another. We could tell that she loved us, responded a third.
Pretty lofty praise coming from a group of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders.
Mrs. Payton, 45, a lifelong Baltimore resident and a teacher at the West Baltimore school for the past 10 years, died Friday of heart failure at Maryland General Hospital.
"She was just the epitome of professionalism," said Ruth N. Bukatman, principal at Booker T. Washington. "She had a strong commitment to the kids and to the school."
Since 1987, Mrs. Payton taught family living (formerly called home economics) and worked with the school's Project Prime program, an effort to recruit and inspire minority students into educational careers. Illness forced her to stop working in April.
Friends and colleagues said Mrs. Payton was the kind of teacher whose stare could quiet a classroom full of students; the kind of teacher who meant business in the classroom; and the old-school kind of teacher who ruled the classroom.
But she was also a teacher who made many of the costumes and choir clothes -- often using her money and working on them at home -- for school assemblies and concerts. She was involved in countless extracurricular activities and was known to call students' parents for an unscheduled parent-teacher consultation.
"She just loved the children," said Blanche Savage of the school's administrative staff. "There was nothing that she wouldn't do for the kids."
"It was a challenge for her but she was a dedicated teacher," said her sister, Tracy Baskerville of Baltimore. "Kids came back to her [after finishing her class] and said, 'I appreciate you, but you were sure hard on me.' She wanted to give back; she wanted to make a difference."
Raised in East Baltimore, Mrs. Payton graduated from Western High School in 1969 and Morgan State University in 1974. She took graduate courses at area colleges.
Her first teaching assignment was at William H. Lemmel Middle School from 1974 to 1976. She taught at Robert Poole Middle School from 1976 until 1987, when she began teaching at Booker T. Washington Middle School.
The former Sandra Ann Baskerville married Edgar Payton in 1977, and the couple lived in the Windsor Hills community of Northwest Baltimore.
Within the past year, Mrs. Payton, a nonsmoker, had battled lung cancer and included some of her experiences with chemotherapy in her family living course, Ms. Bukatman said.
The principal said Mrs. Payton was the kind of dedicated teacher any school system would want.
"She had many opportunities to seek other jobs, but she chose to stay at Booker T. because she made an important contribution to the children we serve," Ms. Bukatman said.
Services are scheduled for 12: 30 p.m. tomorrow at Epworth United Methodist Church, St. Lukes Lane and Liberty Road in Randallstown.
In addition to her husband and sister, survivors include a son, Edgar Payton Jr., and a daughter, Regina Payton, both of Baltimore; her mother, Sydney Baskerville of Baltimore; two brothers, Francis Baskerville of Severn and David Baskerville of Texas; three other sisters, Patricia Baskerville-Walker and Amy Baskerville, both of Baltimore, and April Grayson of Randallstown.
Donations may be made to the American Cancer Society.
Pub Date: 6/03/97