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Guidance counselor leaves a ‘void’

Sharon Leamer

Sharon Leamer

Sharon Leamer, Spotsylvania High School’s longtime guidance counselor, had an incredible memory.

On her daily visits to the library to talk with librarian Debbie Todd over coffee, she could recall nearly any student who had gone through the school in her 36 years there.

Spotsylvania High School’s average graduating class size tops 1,000 students, so at least 36,000 kids went through the school during her time there.

“I would see something in the paper about someone who used to go to school here and ask her,” said Todd, who is in her 38th year with the county’s schools. “She could tell you everything, what period she taught them in That’s what made her special. She really did remember.”

But Leamer, who had worked at the school for decades, passed away over winter break, two days before her 62nd birthday, after being diagnosed in August with stage four pancreatic cancer.

Even though she was battling the disease, she showed up to work every day during the fall until November, when that was not possible anymore.

“School was her life,” said Lester Leamer, to whom she was married for 38 years.

Her loss, Principal Rusty Davis said, is also a loss of institutional knowledge.

“Anytime we ever had a question about a student, we would go to the ‘book of Leamer,’” he said. “She was so connected with the area and knew the pulse of the community.”

Leamer began as a physical education teacher and cheerleading coach at the school in 1978.

“It’s going to be hard without her,” Davis said. “We’re going to have to fill a void. I don’t think there’s any one person who can do everything she did.”

One of Leamer’s recent projects, a scholarship corner available to seniors every Tuesday and Thursday, helped students realize what financial aid was up for grabs and gave them the guidance to get it.

“If parents didn’t have the knowledge, she did,” Davis said.

The scholarship corner is in its fourth year, and was only one of her efforts to help students forge an affordable path to their futures.

She personally took the time to seek out students who hadn’t turned in paperwork for college.

Todd said Leamer would appear in the library during lunch to search for students with delinquent paperwork.

“She was not going to let it slide,” she said.

That spirit, Todd said, kept Leamer at Spotsylvania High, even though she probably should have been home resting.

“She tried to get as much done before she was out sick,” Todd said. “She wanted to be here instead of at home moping. Like she used to tell students, ‘Excuses are only for the weak and sound best to those who make them.’”

Survivors include her husband, daughters Lesley Sharp and Stacy Leamer and two grandchildren.

Davis called her passing “heartbreaking” since she worked so hard and never got to retire to spend time with her grandchildren.

However, her work—making sure every student has access to affordable education—is still being done at Spotsylvania High School.

A need-based scholarship in her honor is being set up through the faculty scholarship fund.

“We’re hoping it will help a deserving student who otherwise couldn’t afford to go to college,” Lester Leamer said.

Lindley Estes: 540/735-1976