Suzan Stewart, who taught history and social studies to generations of Palo Alto students, died March 3 after battling cancer. She was 72.
The energetic Stewart was passionate about making history and government come alive for students, who recalled spirited discussions in her classroom. She also coached Palo Alto High School's Mock Trial program, shepherding students to a number of championships.
She was active in Democratic politics and in Palo Alto community affairs, serving on the boards of the Palo Alto Children's Theatre and Adolescent Counseling Services. Despite her illness, she was deeply involved in a get-out-the-vote drive in last year's election, her children said.
She retired in 2006 after 42 years of teaching in Palo Alto schools.
Born and raised in El Paso, Texas, Suzan Behrman graduated from El Paso High School and came to California at the age of 17 to attend Stanford University.
There, she met her future husband, studied abroad at Stanford's then-campus in Beutelsbach, West Germany, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in history. She earned a degree from the Stanford School of Education the following year.
She married James W. Stewart in 1962 and the pair spent nearly all the rest of their lives as Palo Alto residents, where their two children attended Walter Hays Elementary School, Jordan Middle School and Paly. They took a break from their careers in 1977 to spend a year in Mexico.
Jim Stewart, who died in 2004, served as a judge in Santa Clara County Municipal and Superior Courts.
Suzan Stewart taught at the old Terman Junior High School before moving to Gunn High School and finally to Paly.
In addition to history and social studies, Stewart occasionally was called upon to teach other subjects, including English and English as a Second Language.
Stewart commented on the competitive culture of Palo Alto schools in letters to the editor published in the Palo Alto Weekly in 2010 and 2011.
"For every parent who decries the emphasis on AP classes, there are others who demand more AP and honors classes," she wrote.
The insecurity of parents regarding the college-admission process makes it highly unlikely that district priorities will change unless prestigious colleges and universities stop emphasizing weighted GPAs, or PAUSD parents stop caring ...
"The AP 'rat race ... is not the only way to ensure a successful professional future. If parents and students gain this perspective the culture might be more balanced," she wrote.
Stewart is survived by her son David, of Norwich, Vt.; her daughter, Amy, and son-in-law, Joshua DiBianca, of Studio City, Calif.; and her grandchildren, Tessa and Lia Stewart and Julian DiBianca.
A memorial service will be held Sunday, March 17 at 3:30 p.m. at Congregation Beth Am, 26790 Arastradero Road, Los Altos Hills.
Memorial contributions may be made to Adolescent Counseling Services, 1717 Embarcadero Road, Suite 4000, Palo Alto, 94303.