Remembering Sally Sasz
By: Aaron Cooper
An advisee parent once asked me what a great gift would be for a teacher. My answer was simple – a thank you note from a parent or student, letting that teacher know he/she made a positive impact on the child and/or family. The beauty of those notes is that they last forever, often tucked in a drawer or a box, able to be reread when needed. Since Sally’s tragic passing, I have reread, and reread, two such special notes, both written by Sally. The first is a paper she wrote in eighth grade titled, “Lessons That Will Last Forever,” and the second is an email she crafted that was then used for the 2019 high school graduation ceremony. They both mean so much to me because of who they came from. In my two and a half decades of teaching there is no one as talented, kind, intelligent, athletic, artistic, and amazing as Sally to walk into my classroom. To write that Sally was special would be an understatement. She was one of those rare, wonderful people that comes into your life and impacts it forever.
As I read, smile and cry, I keep thinking and feeling so thankful that someone as wonderful as her was part of my life and the lives of so many. One of my favorite lines from her paper is that I reminded her of Eeyore, “curmudgeon on the outside but different on the inside.” A perfect line that only she could get away with.
In truth, Sally was the one who deserved my thanks as well as the gratitude of everyone she connected with. She was the one who pushed us to do better at anything we did, to be kinder and more respectful of others, to have confidence and take risks, and to laugh whenever possible. Sally made those around her better and made whatever she was involved in a success. While she credited others with helping her, it was Sally who really helped us. Even now, her words continue to help me through this devastating tragedy.
I am grateful that Sally was part of my life, and I thank her for all she did for me; it means more than she could have ever imagined.
-Aaron M. Cooper
By: Peter Floyd
It was a delight to teach Spanish to Sally Sasz. What most impressed me was not her quickness to pick up the language (though she and her classmates picked up Spanish faster than just about any group I have ever taught), but her intensity and sense of humor. When receiving instruction, her face was the picture of focus, and then her follow-up questions always helped the entire group. But we had a little game going back then. The class was supposed to be all in Spanish. If the students tricked me into speaking English, they received extra points, but if I tricked them into speaking English, they got extra homework. As soon as I started laying the groundwork for a trap, Sally knew where things were going. She would start grinning and warning her classmates. Then she would start laying her own trap, such as innocently asking the English equivalent for a Spanish word I had just used. Even though she wasn’t much of a poker player and often asked those questions with a big smile and in a peculiar tone of voice, she managed to get the best of me more often than not. I must also add that Sally’s leadership as Middle School Student Body President set the standard for all middle school presidents who followed. For having had the chance to teach her I will always be grateful.
By: Katie Jolly
I taught Sally as a Sophomore, and in Spanish Three Honors, students were studying Fernando Botero, a Colombian artist known for making his figures hyperbolically voluminous. As a mini project, they were asked to take an image, portray it in the style of Botero, and then present their work to the class. All the students arrived with their projects, and overall, the presentations—which showcased different levels of artistic ability and effort and tended to focus more on the Spanish language component—met or exceeded my expectations. A handful of students had chosen Girl with a Pearl Earring, which they were reading in English class. And most of the students had sketched enlarged versions on printer paper, some on notebook paper, some black and white, and a few with color—but not Sally! True to Sally's style—to go above and beyond—Sally arrived with a canvas painting of Frida Kahlo's self-portrait. Showing great attention to detail, Sally had enlarged both Frida Kahlo and her companion animals; and in line with her classmates, the oral presentation was top-notch. I had anticipated that most students would focus on the language component; and therefore, I had not intended to display their visuals. However, after I saw Sally's painting, onto the wall they all went! For the next few weeks, several "girls with pearl earrings", other figures, and Sally's Frida Kahlo hung on the classroom wall, brightening our space and impressing students from other classes, many of whom would ask of Sally's painting, "Who did that?!" No one else but Sally.
By: Tom Collins
I never got the chance to teach Sally, but she definitely made an impression on me. I have been helping students prepare for the big scholarship interviews for years, by asking questions on the panel that holds the practice interviews. I remember Sally's practice for the Morehead-Cain like it was yesterday. We see a lot of brilliant, talented students preparing for these interviews but Sally struck me immediately as being special. It was amazing to hear about her hidden art pieces around the state and how she wanted people to discover them, maybe by accident, and be transported by a tiny window into another world. However, my strongest memory of the interview was of her kindness, grace and humility. She left us breathless with excitement about her prospects for the scholarship. Sometimes, you just know. I feel lucky to have had that fleeting chance to get to know her and be touched by who she was. It only took half an hour in that interview room for her to smile and wave whenever she saw me around campus from that day on. This school and this community were made a better place by having Sally as part of it. We really miss her.