The Libertyville Elementary District 70 community is mourning the loss of former Rockland Principal Dr. Marsha A. Hestad, who died Tuesday after a courageous battle with cancer.
“She brought energy, enthusiasm and creativity to every part of her job,” said Marilynn Menuey, District 70’s director of special education, who quickly was befriended by the spirited principal when Menuey began working in the district. “She lived life in abundance. She will be sorely missed.”
Rockland Principal 1996-2005
Hestad, 61, was principal of the elementary school from 1996-2005. Her role as a principal brought her back to the Libertyville school where she taught gifted education, in a program then called SOAR, and worked with struggling students in remedial resource from 1988-1991.
She went on to become a nationally known expert on gifted education. Not bad for a North Shore woman who also rode a lime-green motorcycle.
Funeral arrangements are pending for the Northbrook native.
Dr. Hestad was an enthusiastic lifelong learner who devoted her career to education but also enjoyed traveling, cooking, and being outdoors.
“She was full of life, the most positive principal you can imagine,” said Rockland third-grade teacher Pat Hominick. “People here still talk about how great Marsha was. She accomplished so much, but she went far too young.”
Created Cable Show at Rockland
While principal at Rockland, she created a successful cable TV show featuring students in front of the camera and behind operating equipment, called “Blast Off with Math and Science.” She also encouraged creativity by supporting a national problem-solving competition called Destination Imagination.
“She never let anything get in her way, including cancer,” said Rockland first-grade teacher Cheryl Crenshaw, adding that even when Hestad was sick from fighting cancer, she went skydiving. “She was very encouraging to have us try new things and very supportive when we did.”
But Hestad not only led the teachers, she became a part of their families. “Marsha got it, even though she didn’t have her own children, she got it. When I had my children, she was right there with me, helping out. She understood.”
Her early career in District 70 found Dr. Hestad teaching seventh grade language arts and literature at Highland in 1993-94, and in the summer of 1994 served as summer school co-director. Before becoming principal at Rockland, Hestad was a principal in Bensenville for two years.
Staff will remember her for her back-to-school parties held at the end of September, hand-written notes she put in their mailboxes recognizing their accomplishments no matter how small, the wide variety of earrings she wore, and the ease in which she could laugh and find the humor in situations.
She retired as head of school for the prestigious Science and Arts Academy in Des Plaines. Before that she was executive director of student learning in Lake Forest School District 67 for three years. She also taught at several universities, including Loyola, Lake Forest College, Indiana State, Purdue.
Honored for Leadership Status
Her expansive career in education also receive recognition from Rep. Mark Kirk, who honored her leadership status in “10 for the 10th” in 2006, by praising her “raising academic performance to unprecedented levels” and “pioneering new levels of academic performance for gifted students.”
She received her doctorate degree from Loyola College, a master’s degree from the National College of Education, and a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Illinois. She graduated from Glenbrook North High School in 1968.
"Marsha was a strong and highly energetic leader at Rockland School,” said retired District 70 Superintendent Dr. Mark R. Friedman, who hired her from more than 100 applicants as the Rockland leader. “She was creative, innovative and always on the cutting edge with new instructional practices. In addition to her duties as Rockland principal, she was a well-known expert in gifted education. Her enthusiasm and zest for life will be sorely missed."