At Collegiate School, every adult plays a vital role. Sometimes, it’s high profile. Sometimes, it’s understated or even far-behind-the-scenes. Really, though, everyone’s role, job description notwithstanding, is the same: Work together, be positive and respectful, and do all that you can to ensure the well-being of our children. In her 27 years of service to Collegiate, Sara Noftsinger took her role to heart, and, without a doubt, she played it well.
Sara spent her time on North Mooreland Road holding forth in the Lower School cafeteria, first Burke Hall and, since 2015, the state-of-the-art campus landmark called Centennial Hall.
“Sara is very energetic and a hard worker,” said Shirley Cox, her long-time colleague. “She likes everything even and smooth. When she did her glasses, she wanted them all at one level. When she did her silverware, she wanted them all going the same way. We made peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches together. We worked in the dish room together. She was very kind. She really cared about people. I loved working with Sara all those years.”
When Shirley spoke of her friend, she smiled. No secret why. Just the mention of Sara Noftsinger elicits smiles from those whose paths she’s crossed.
“When we played ‘80’s songs, Sarah would sing and dance through the kitchen,” recalled Denise Hogan, a colleague for five years. “She knew all the words, especially the Madonna and Michael Jackson songs. It was sweet to watch. Sara always came in with a great attitude, ready to work, ready to help everybody. She was just a joy to be around.”
At 2 p.m. tomorrow, Sara will join her family and a legion of admirers in Centennial Hall to celebrate her retirement. Her long career has been one of significance and a testament to eternal optimism, strength of character, loyalty, perseverance, and resilience.
Sara, you see, is an individual with Down Syndrome who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was three years old. She’s learned to manage both quite well and without a trace of self-pity or expectation that folks treat her differently than they would treat anyone else.
“Sara gives you faith in humanity,” said Myra Edwards, Collegiate’s assistant food service director. “She’s a unique, special person. She has a great sense of humor. The children understand that you can be different and still play a very positive role in society. She’s touched a lot of hearts.”
Sara carries her whistle-while-you-work spirit far beyond her day job.
“Sara is a very happy individual,” said her brother Bill Noftsinger. “Her outlook is very positive. That’s been reinforced with her experience working with the kids. She’s enjoyed her interactions. The kids enjoyed interacting with her. She got a lot of satisfaction out of working at Collegiate. Fulfilling her role gave her a sense of purpose.”
Among her many interests, Sara loves to travel. One of her most memorable junkets occurred in December 2016 when she accompanied several family members to New York and enjoyed a viewing of The Today Show
“She had a backstage pass,” said Fran Brooks, her sister and frequent traveling companion. “Harry Smith
came up to her and said, ‘Hello.’ Sara said, ‘It’s nice to see you, but I’d like to meet Carson
(Daly).’ Savannah Guthrie
came up to her, and Sara said, “Nice to meet you, but where’s Carson?’ As soon as she saw Carson, she went nuts. He was so kind to her. It was quite a day.”
Sara looks forward to her big day tomorrow with the same spirit and enthusiasm with which she went about her business each time she came on campus.
“Working at Collegiate was fun,” she said. “I love my friends there. I’ll miss them a lot. They were so sweet to me. I know the kids miss me. I’m going to come and visit my friends from time to time.”
So what have we learned from Sara Noftsinger?
“Understanding and giving people a chance,” said Andy Harrison, Collegiate’s food service manager. “Sara was very passionate about what she did. One of the best parts about her was her heart. She cared about every kid and teacher and co-worker. She brightened everybody’s day.”