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Petaluma High School Teacher Dies After Suffering Aneurysm While Skiing

Sarah Wadsworth, 51, died Wednesday.

This story was updated 9 am Friday.

A beloved Petaluma High School teacher who influenced generations of students died Wednesday after suffering a brain aneurysm while skiing with her family.

Her death was confirmed by the Washoe County Coroner's Office in Reno, Nevada.

Sarah Wadsworth, 51, who spent 26 years teaching French and drama at Petaluma High School as well as coaching girls’ tennis, was skiing in Squaw Valley with her family when she suddenly lost consciousness. She was given CPR and taken to an area hospital, but could not be revived.

The official cause of death was sub-craneal hemorrhage, according to the coroner's office, who said Wadsworth died Wednesday at 9:07 am.

Wadsworth lived in Sebastopol, but was well-known in Petaluma because of her role as an educator and coach and in 2011 was named Educator of the Year.

“She was highly thought-of by both her colleagues and her students,” said Ron Everett, who worked alongside Wadsworth while an English teacher at the school. “She had very high expectations of her students and her students appreciated her because of that.”

On Thursday, Wadsworth’s students, who knew her as Madame Wadsworth, wore high heels to class as a way of paying tribute to their teacher. They also took to Facebook to pay their condolences to the woman who was strict, but also a nurturer who went out of her way to help them.

“I am so grateful that I had you as a teacher,” wrote one student in a Facebook message. “You helped me through so much. Thank you so much Madame. You will always be in my heart. R.I.P.”

It's not clear what causes aneurysms, although high blood pressure, high cholesterol and cigarette smoking raise risk of certain types of aneurysms.

Brain aneurysms cause no symptoms and may only be discovered during tests for another, usually unrelated, condition. In other cases, an unruptured aneurysm will cause problems by pressing on areas in the brain, causing severe headaches, blurred vision, changes in speech, and neck pain.

Did you know Sarah Wadsworth? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Betty Harrison February 04, 2012 at 02:03 AM
The students I know always had the greatest respect for Mme. Wadsworth. She was a wonderful teacher and will be dearly missed.
Sophia Bihn February 04, 2012 at 02:07 AM
I am never going to forget the day I was taking a math test and getting the news wonderful teacher passed away. Our school isn't the same, we are emotional wrecked. It won't be the same without her. We <3 you Madame
Erin Donaldson February 04, 2012 at 07:16 AM
I never took French in high school, but I had many friends that did and Ms. Wadsworth's reputation stretched far beyond her own classroom. The impression that this teacher, affectionately known as "Madame" (with a capital "M"), left upon my fellow students was both seen and felt. I am so sad to hear this news. To say that Petaluma has lost an invaluable asset to our children is an understatement.
LongTimeLocal February 05, 2012 at 05:15 AM
So sad. My grandmother passed away exactly the same way. If there's any consolation, it's instant. One moment you're there, then the next you're gone, but so hard on the family who have no chance to even say goodbye. RIP Sarah, and may God bless your family.
Jacki cybulski February 05, 2012 at 10:11 PM
I knew Madame well, she was not only a french teacher she was a loved friend , second mother, and a tennis coach... When I heard the news I collapsed on the floor in shock in tears... I promise to make her proud and to always think what would madame do.. Love you Madame... R.I.P

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