Lauretta E. Stead, who inspired two generations of Bedford middle school students during a 34-year teaching career, died last week at age 85. She was a resident of Carleton-Willard Village.
After graduating from Watertown High School, Ms. Stead earned an undergraduate degree at Boston University before beginning her teaching career in 1957 at what was then Bedford Junior-Senior High School. Ralph Hammond, retired principal of Davis School, actually remembers her student teaching when he was in fifth grade. “And she did a little gym class as well.”
“I was one of her students back in grade seven, in both math and science,” Hammond said. Her teaching system became the standard of local math teachers for years, he noted. “She really wanted to see the thinking process behind students’ problem-solving. Ms. Stead also received a master’s degree from Western New England University.
During most of her career, Ms. Stead was active with the leadership of the Bedford Education Association. “I was on a negotiating team with her,” Hammond said. “She was a vital member of the union,” said Joseph Buckley, Bedford superintendent of schools from 1981 to 2001.
Paula Verrier, the retired BHS teacher who was the long-time BEA president, said Ms. Stead was her eighth-grade math teacher and subsequently her mentor in the union. ‘We had a positive relationship,” Buckley said, recalling traveling to Washington, DC with Ms. Stead and Principal Lawrence Aronstein to receive a national award on behalf of John Glenn Middle School in 1990.
He added that she was active in the Massachusetts Teachers Association and worked on negotiations with paraprofessionals in other districts. Ms. Stead, who retired after the 1990-1991 school year, continued to work as a consultant for the MTA for many years. “I head a story that a small unit of cafeteria workers asked for her advice. She would accept no money; she asked them to bake her a cake,” said Verrier.
One of Ms. Stead’s best friends was Claire French, a long-time member of the central office staff. “She tutored my kids in math and was a good friend to all of us,” said her son, Police Sgt. Jeffrey French, a 1986 BHS graduate. He remembered Ms. Stead accompanying many of the overseas class trips.
Other former students praised Ms. Stead’s classroom skills. “She helped me understand the concepts and find success, and her door as always open for help,” said Nancy Franks, BHS class of 1991. “Ms. Stead was a treasure to the Bedford Public Schools.” Franks added, “When I briefly lived in her neighborhood she welcomed me and my kids to her pool.”
Meg McAllister, a 1993 graduate, studied mathematics at Tufts University and has spent the past 20 years working in the field of math education. “Miss Stead was my eighth-grade algebra teacher in 1988. I remember her carefully working through examples at her trusty overhead projector, explaining math in a way that actually made sense,” she recalled. “For the first time, I wasn’t intimidated in math class. Miss Stead helped instill in me a love of math.”
Ms. Stead is survived by several nieces and nephews. Private graveside services are planned.