Sharon Ann Ramsey-Walker, 71, of Doylestown, a longtime teacher in the Philadelphia School District who supported at-risk children, died Monday, Nov. 25, of cancer at Fox Chase Cancer Center.
Born to Ollie and Dollie Jones in McKeesport, Pa., she moved with her parents to Philadelphia at an early age. She graduated from Roxborough High School and enrolled in Community College of Philadelphia at age 17.
Her family said she left school because she couldn’t focus on her studies. Instead, she took a job with the U.S. Postal Service at its former 30th Street location. “It was the hardest and most boring job I had ever experienced,” she told family, “and the catalyst for me to continue my education.”
Mrs. Walker married Ephraim Ramsey. The couple had two children before divorcing. She married Denzil Walker in 1989. The two were together for 30 years.
She took advantage of the Careers Opportunity Program, a federally funded jobs initiative, to earn an associate degree from CCP and a bachelor’s degree from Temple University. Later, she completed a master’s degree in educational administration at Cheyney University.
In 1970, Mrs. Walker began work as a classroom aide at Robert Morris Elementary School in North Philadelphia. Her first teaching job was at Walter Smith Elementary School in South Philadelphia, where she stayed for three years.
She taught at a dozen elementary schools throughout the city before finding a permanent job teaching fourth and sixth grades at Morrison Elementary School in Olney, where she was for 24 years.
Mrs. Walker retired in 2007 after a 37-year teaching career but couldn’t stay home. She returned and was a long-term substitute for 12 years, daughter Deana M. Ramsey said.
Because of her leadership skills, Mrs. Ramsey-Walker became a master teacher and mentor for 15 student teachers. She also became a faculty adviser with Teach for America, a nonprofit that nurtures leaders in education.
One of her missions was to champion at-risk youth. The School District launched a reading program called Read 180 as part of the initiative. Mrs. Ramsey-Walker implemented the program and taught in it. When the students’ learning skills improved, she was honored with the “Exemplar Teacher” award.
In 2013 and for the next several years, Mrs. Ramsey-Walker was a teacher at the Philadelphia Juvenile Justice Service Center (PJJSC) where young offenders are incarcerated.
“She showed up to teach at the PJJSC with the same mother wit, wisdom, and most important, love for all she encountered,” said Nelson Walker, Philadelphia’s deputy commissioner for juvenile justice services, no relation to Mrs. Ramsey-Walker. “She had the ability to reach any child, no matter how bleak or hopeless a child’s current condition might seem.
“No child or juvenile wants to be incarcerated, so imagine, every day this retiree came to a place to teach that her students did not want to be. However, her patience, kindness, and compassion turned a roomful of frustrated children into a community of hope and belief, with a spirit to overcome adversity.”
Mrs. Walker was a member of many organizations focused on education and civil rights. One of which she was especially proud was volunteering for the auxiliary of the Helen O. Dickens-Abington-Jefferson Health Center. Dickens was the first African American woman to become board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology in Philadelphia, Ramsey said.
Mrs. Walker was a member of New Salem Baptist Church, where she sang in the choir.
She enjoyed playing the piano, dance, travel, spending time with her children and grandchildren, and getting the grandchildren interested in music, art, and swimming.
Besides her daughter and husband, she is survived by a son, Ephraim Ramsey III; four step-children; two grandchildren; 14 step-grandchildren; and nieces and nephews. Her former husband died in 2015.