Jean Crawford Sisk, 82, book editor, longtime educator in city, county

September 04, 1997|By Eleanor Yang | Eleanor Yang,SUN STAFF

Jean Crawford Sisk, a longtime Baltimore County educator, died of a heart attack Aug. 27 at St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson. She was 82.

Ms. Sisk started her career in Baltimore, teaching English, history, journalism and hygiene. After 12 years in the city, she was coordinator of English for Baltimore County public schools for 26 years and retired in 1975.

She also taught graduate-level seminars for high school English teachers.

She worked on several high school and college English texts and anthologies, including editing "Major Writers of America" and writing "Masters of Russian Fiction" and "The Teacher's Guide for Major Writers of America."

She co-edited "Adventures in American Literature: Classic Edition."

"Major Writers of America" is used in many college freshman and sophomore English classes across the country.

"It's a brilliant book," said Jean Kuhlman of Towson, who succeeded Ms. Sisk as coordinator of English for Baltimore County public schools. "I've never had anything as thorough. And the 'Teacher's Guide' is one of the most helpful and thorough books available for teachers."

"Jean was wonderful at bringing out the best ideas of other people and stimulating those ideas," said Ms. Kuhlman "She also knew so much about so many different subjects: music, art, history, literature -- and she could just weave it together. It was like a graduate course listening to her."

Ms. Sisk was known to many educators for her breadth of knowledge and experience, said Elden Schneider of Baltimore, the English department chairman at Pikesville High School, who worked with her for more than 20 years.

"She had an amazing mind," said Mr. Schneider "Her mind was the kind that would go off in a million directions at once. She could just call to mind a whole range of experiences or books she'd read."

For her dedication to education, Ms. Sisk received a lifetime service award from the National Council of Teachers of English in As quoted in the award: "She became the acknowledged spokesman for English for the state. She never hesitated speaking against ignorance, shoddiness, trendiness, sloppy language and bad manners. She relentlessly championed the rights of children to know, and to read, and to think, and to make mistakes."

Born in Baltimore, Ms. Sisk lived in California and New Jersey as a youngster and returned to Maryland to graduate from Towson High School in 1933. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Goucher College in 1937 and earned a master's degree in English from the University of Maryland College Park. She did graduate work at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Colorado.

Jean Saunders of Baltimore, a longtime friend, and Ms. Sisk were season ticket-holders to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and several local theaters for many years.

"She enjoyed listening to Beethoven's Triple Concierto, and we went to hundreds of plays," Ms. Saunders said.

Ms. Sisk was also a spirited card player.

"She just loved to play cards," Ms. Saunders said. "She loved bridge and puzzles, especially acrostic. She'd take them out whenever we were away on vacation, and we'd all play together."

Services were private.

Ms. Sisk is survived by five nieces and nephews.

Pub Date: 9/04/97

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