Dorothy H. Reardon, a trailblazing science educator who taught for 30 years at a Fair Oaks high school, died Nov. 15 of pancreatic cancer, her family said. She was 76.
Mrs. Reardon devoted her life to science education from an early age. As the only girl in her high school physics class, she asked her teachers to help persuade her father to let her go to college to study biology.
"He wanted her to go to secretarial school," said her daughter, Joy Amulya. "He didn't think girls should go into science."
Mrs. Reardon was a pioneer at Del Campo High School. She joined the faculty in 1970 and was believed to be the only female science teacher in the school's history until she retired, when she helped hire a woman as her replacement. She served as department chairwoman, was involved in starting Advanced Placement science classes and was co-leader of the Academic Decathlon team.
Besides teaching classes in biology, physiology and anatomy, she spent summers at scientific institutes and doing field studies in Alaska, Australia, Kenya and the Canary and Galapagos islands. She was a leader in the National Association of Biology Teachers.
A demanding teacher, she connected with students through her natural enthusiasm for science. She helped lead field trips to Yosemite National Park and the Marin Headlands that introduced urban youngsters to the beauty of nature. She wrote college recommendation letters and encouraged students to pursue science careers especially female students.
"Oftentimes it's not what you say, but the example you set that says, 'You can do these things, too,' " said Bernard Cody, a retired English and drama teacher who led the Del Campo Academic Decathlon team with Mrs. Reardon. "She represented to girls someone who was successful in science and who had wanted to do it ever since she was a girl."
Dorothy Hoeppner was born in 1935 and raised in suburban Philadelphia. She earned a biology degree at Wagner College in New York and began teaching in Hightstown, N.J. She married Frederick Reardon in 1956, settled in the Sacramento area and had three children.
She went to work in 1969 as a part-time science teacher at Encina High School and earned a master's degree in education for gifted and talented students at California State University, Sacramento. After retiring from Del Campo in 2000, she taught for several years at Sierra College and American River College.
A longtime Carmichael resident, Mrs. Reardon traveled to many countries with her husband, a retired Aerojet rocket scientist. She co-chaired the social issues forum at St. John's Lutheran Church in Sacramento. She enjoyed playing with her young grandchildren and teaching a new generation about the wonders of science.
"I see better in hindsight the strength that she had," Amulya said. "She was plainspoken and practical. She was committed to social change."