BY JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS and ERIN ROLL
winters@montclairlocal.news

roll@montclairlocal.news

The Montclair school community is mourning the passing of long-term educator Karen Wingfield, a lifelong Montclair resident who had been serving as a paraprofessional at Glenfield Middle School.

Wingfield, 67, died on Sunday, April 12 at St. Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston. 

"My sister was my best friend," said Donna Wingfield-Feggins, Wingfield's sister. "She was my fiercest supporter, and she was my fiercest supporter."

“Ms. Wingfield was a true Mountie in every sense of the word,” wrote Vincent Pelli, a social studies teacher at Glenfield, in an email to students and parents. “We were very fortunate to have Ms. Wingfield work with the students of House Pelli these past two years. She loved every student as if they were her own children. She approached each day with a smile and a laugh and often couldn't get too far down the hallway before being stopped for a hug.”

Wingfield had a 40-year career in teaching in the Montclair schools. She began her career as a student teacher at Bradford, and from there went on to Montclair High School and Mt. Hebron (now Buzz Aldrin) Middle School. She had been at Glenfield as a teacher, and later a paraprofessional, for the past two decades.

"By title, Karen was a paraprofessional at Glenfield Middle School, but at her essence, she was a sister, confidante, mentor, and friend," said Petal Robertson, the chair of the Montclair Education Association.
"For many Glenfield students she was the listening ear they needed, and for teachers, an endless support.  She will be missed by the many students, families, colleagues and greater Montclair Community members, whose lives were made better by knowing her, Robertson said.

Wingfield graduated from Hillside School, was a member of Montclair High School’s class of 1970, and was a 1975 graduate of Bloomfield College. 

In addition to her work with students in the classroom, she had important roles advising the Black Student Union and serving as one of the coaches to the high school cheerleading team, said  Interim Superintendent Nathan Parker in a letter to parents, staff and students.

Wingfield was also a mentor for Sister to Sister, Wingfield-Feggins said.

As a teacher, Wingfield cared deeply for all of her students, Wingfield-Feggins said, and she wanted to make sure that every one of them did well and had what they needed to succeed.

This included students who were particularly vulnerable. As an example, Wingfield-Feggins said, Wingfield became a mentor to a high school junior who had become pregnant. "She took her under her wing: 'You're going to graduate,'" Wingfield-Feggins said.

She recalled that Wingfield told another student, who was known for having a bit of an attitude, "You're going to cross that bridge in June if I have to drag you."

Wingfield loved cooking. "I often told her, she should have gone into home economics," Wingfield-Feggins said. "'But I didn't like sewing,'" would be Wingfield's response.

Wingfield also loved fashion and jewelry, and having her nails done. When the prom season came around, Wingfield would help students who were having trouble affording what they needed for the prom. She would send them to the beauty parlor or help them pick out a dress or shoes.

Pelli described Wingfield’s helpfulness when he became a new social studies teacher at Glenfield a few years back; she provided both teachers and students a glimpse into what Montclair used to be like. The teachers would always go to her for advice, he added.

“She always had a story for me and gave me many wonderful suggestions on how to weave the history of Montclair into our Social Studies classroom,” he said.

Wingfield and Pelli Began the "Growing Up Montclair" speaker series in which lifelong Mounties came to Glenfield to share their story with students. 

“The program has become a huge success because of the love Ms. Wingfield put into it. She tapped into her wide network of friends and family to ensure we had a great group of speakers every year,” said Pelli  

The event will continue in her honor, but it won't be the same without hearing her stories, he said.

Arrangements are by Caggiano Funeral Home. A prayer service for Wingfield's immediate family will be held on Friday at 11 a.m. The service will also be available for viewing via Facebook, Zoom and Caggiano's website for those who wish to participate virtually. Interment will be at Glendale Cemetery. At a later date, after the COVID-19 outbreak has ended, there will be a larger celebration of Wingfield's life for extended family, friends and colleagues, Wingfield-Feggins said.