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Jeanne Steffen

Woman poses between two birch trees, smiling

Jeanne Steffen

A longtime physical education teacher and cheerleading coach at South High, Jeanne Steffen served as a positive role model for thousands of students during a 24-year teaching career. Her love of teaching, and her constant encouragement of her students, made her a favorite teacher of many.

Born in Trenton, New Jersey, Jeanne graduated from the New Jersey State Teachers College in Trenton in 1951. As a junior in college, she was asked by the school’s administration to consult on the construction on a new school building and the development of a physical education program in Ewing, New Jersey. After graduating, she accepted a position as PE instructor in Ewing, and then taught first grade in Hawaii from 1953 to 1955.

On March 17, 1953, she married William Steffen at the Naval Air Station, Barbers Point, Hawaii. And in 1968, Jeanne accepted a position in the South Glens Falls School District.

In addition to her work as an elementary school physical education teacher, Jeanne was perhaps best known as the school’s cheerleading coach. She led the Bulldogs to three national competitions in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1985, 1988 and 1989, and was instrumental in getting cheerleading recognized as a sport.

Jeanne also served for several years on the Town of Moreau Recreation Commission, helping to lay the groundwork for the formation of what is now Harry J. Betar Memorial Recreation Park.

Her 1989-90 cheerleading team, in a letter to the editor, wrote, “Mrs. Steffen’s discipline and hard work are two main reasons why her squads have been so successful, and our motto, ‘Attitude determines success,’ really describes her method of coaching. Her constant energy and support have helped mold her teams and instill this concept in all of her cheerleaders … She has been a model for us and all the girls she coached in her successful career … Her professionalism is sincerely appreciated, and we are indebted to her for all she has done for us.”

In support of her Hall of Fame nomination, Jeanne’s husband Bill, wrote, “The sense of achievement that she felt was often of a personal nature. She could be working with a group of second- or third-graders, gradually improving their ability to dribble a basketball, or a class in grades five and six, finally managing to climb the rope. The expressions on the childrens’ faces told Jeanne that they shared with her the same amount, or almost the same, sense of accomplishment.”

Kathleen Bushman Kern, who will say a few words via video tonight, said
“Jeanne Steffen was a mentor and positive role model to me from a very young age. She supported and encouraged me throughout my entire life and was a major influence in my choice to become a health and physical education teacher. Her kindness, compassion and enthusiasm not only touched my life but the lives of so many others.”

Jeanne passed away at the age of 79 in 2009. She and Bill had three children: Bill, his wife Refilwe and son William Atiishe of Greensboro, North Carolina; James, his wife Trish and daughter Zaya of Argyle; and Carol Cuddy and her daughter, Quinlan, of Moneta, Virginia. Typical of Jeanne, she asked that memorial contributions be made to the New York State Association for Health, Physical Education and Recreation, or to the Double H Ranch in Lake Luzerne.