Joan M. Shaw, 78, longtime English teacher in city

April 28, 2006

Joan M. Shaw, who taught English during a career of more than 30 years in city public schools, died of cancer Monday at her Northwest Baltimore home. She was 78.

Born Joan Mehlinger in Baltimore and raised on Park Heights Avenue, she was a 1945 graduate of Western High School. She earned her Bachelor of Arts and master's degrees at the University of Maryland, College Park and studied toward a doctorate at Loyola and Goucher colleges.

Mrs. Shaw - briefly known as Joan Shopnick, until she and her husband changed their surname to Shaw - joined the school system in the 1950s and was assigned as a sixth-grade teacher at Fallstaff Elementary. She moved to Northwestern High School and became head of its English department.

When she left Northwestern, Mrs. Shaw briefly led a reading program for city students until retiring 12 years ago.

"She had a true passion for teaching and became not only a guiding force in her students' lives during the year they spent with her but for years afterwards," said her daughter, Jan Shaw of New York City. "She left an imprint on every kid she had. She was a real word hound. She encouraged her students to take Latin so they would know precisely what a word meant."

Mrs. Shaw was a student of vocabulary and studied Latin and Greek. She also insisted her sixth-graders read classical mythology.

Family members said that when she entered a local restaurant, she would often be approached by former students who acknowledged her role in their lives.

"She wanted to be the best at everything she did," her daughter said. "She was an incredible tennis and bridge player and belonged to several book groups."

Services were held Wednesday in Pikesville.

Survivors also include her husband of 54 years, Morton Shaw, a retired National Aeronautics and Space Administration engineer; another daughter, Jill Shaw of London; a brother, Murray Zeligman of Baltimore; a sister, Mimi Hart of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; and two granddaughters.

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