Ellen G. Oberfelder, 77, longtime city educator

October 04, 2006|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,sun reporter

Ellen G. Oberfelder, a retired curriculum specialist for Baltimore's public schools who later taught at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland, died of cancer Monday at Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care. The longtime Pikesville resident was 77.

Ellen Gundersheimer was born in Baltimore and raised on Greenspring Avenue and Park Heights Avenue. She was a 1946 graduate of Forest Park High School, and four years later earned her bachelor's degree in English from Wheaton College in Norton, Mass.

She earned a master's degree in education from Western Maryland College, now McDaniel College, and a second master's in language from the Johns Hopkins University in 1975. She also earned a principal's and supervisor's certificate from Loyola College in 1983.

Mrs. Oberfelder began her career teaching English at Northwestern High School in 1967, after raising two children. While heading the school's English department from 1976 to 1980, she was editor of Maryland English Journal.

From 1980 to 1985, Mrs. Oberfelder was an educational specialist in the Office of English, supervising more than 100 English teachers in middle and high schools. She also wrote curriculum, evaluated teachers and programs, and demonstrated instructional techniques.

"She supervised me when I was head of the English department at Forest Park," Jude M. Pasquariello, special assistant to school system interim Chief Executive Officer Charlene C. Boston, said yesterday.

"Ellen could convince you to use new strategies you were heretofore afraid to try, and when she came in to observe your class, she didn't snoopervize," he said.

"She wasn't interested in reporting your faults to your department head or regional supervisor. She'd say, `Let me tell you about all of your good areas,' and 10 minutes later she'd say, `Now, let's talk about what we can improve,'" Mr. Pasquariello said. "And then she'd say, `Let me come in, do a demonstration lesson, and show you what I mean.' By doing it, she convinced you that you could do it."

In 1985, Mrs. Oberfelder moved to school headquarters as a divisional specialist working in the office of public relations, writing speeches for then-superintendent Alice G. Pinderhughes.

"When she became the speech writer of Alice Pinderhughes, she demonstrated talents that I didn't know she had. She had the most remarkable knack, not only for writing brilliant speeches, but for making them sound as if the words were actually Alice's," said Charlie Allen, retired coordinator of English for the city schools.

"There was a time when a letter didn't leave North Avenue unless she had gone over it and made suggestions and corrections," said her husband of 55 years, William Oberfelder.

Two years later, Mrs. Oberfelder took a job in which she wore two hats as supervisor for English language arts for city schools and curriculum specialist overseeing secondary English language arts and reading. She was responsible for developing curriculum for students in more than 50 secondary and 123 elementary schools.

She also worked on design for state and local testing and was a member of the committee for the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program.

After retiring in 1993, Mrs. Oberfelder joined the faculty at Notre Dame, where she taught literature and composition.

"Ellen was a graceful and gracious teacher who had high expectations. And even though she had high expectations, she was always very supportive of her students. She helped them when she had them, and later on in their careers," said Margaret J. Steinhagen, assistant professor of education at Notre Dame.

"She loved words and the language and had great respect for it. She was a marvelous writer and her beautifully written thank-you notes are something I cherish," Dr. Steinhagen said.

"She had impeccable control of the language and there was very little in literature that she didn't know," Mr. Pasquariello said.

Mrs. Oberfelder also coordinated a seminar in methods of teaching English, a cooperative program between Notre Dame and Goucher College.

She was a former member of the board of Jewish Family and Children's Service and the Central Scholarship Bureau and a member of Oheb Shalom Congregation.

Services will be held at 11 p.m. today at Sol Levinson & Bros., 8900 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville.

Also surviving are a son, Robert W. Oberfelder of Cary, N.C.; a daughter, Jean O. Ginsberg of Baltimore; and four grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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