<hed>South Bay loses pioneering journalism teacher

South Bay loses pioneering journalism teacher

by Jason Dietrich

Legendary South Bay educator Helen Sinsabaugh died Sunday. She was 92.

Sinsabaugh taught English and journalism in South Bay schools for 36 years, molding generations of writers and journalists.

Sinsabaugh suffered a stroke Sunday morning, and died at Little Company of Mary Hospital about 10:30 p.m.

"Academically, she was known nationally as the 'mother of scholastic journalism.' She brought many honors and academic awards to Redondo Union. This school and her students were really her life," said Terry Martinez, a friend of Sinsabaugh's and a teacher at Redondo Union.

Sinsabaugh was born in 1908 and moved from Illinois to Manhattan Beach with her family in 1913. She graduated from Redondo Union High School in 1926 and went on to become a member of the first class to graduate from UCLA's Westwood campus. Later she studied at USC, the University of California at Berkley, and Stanford, completing graduate studies in history and journalism.

She began her teaching career at Center Street school in Manhattan Beach. In 1937 she returned to Redondo Union as an instructor. Sinsabaugh had been on the staff of the "Daily Bruin" newspaper at UCLA and started a school newspaper at the Center Street School. At Redondo Union she was the driving force behind the student newspaper, the "High Tide."

"She was a great teacher about life in general. She taught me when to keep my mouth shut when to ask to questions. She was extremely progressive for her day and always encouraged students to follow their hearts and never be satisfied with mediocrity," said former journalism student Gentil Smith.

The "High Tide" was honored as one of the nation's outstanding school newspapers during Sinsabaugh's tenure. After her retirement in 1968, she kept active in school and community affairs.

"Everybody knew her and knew of her, she was such an imposing figure. Helen was someone I could always count on to help patch together information. She knew a lot of people. Her network of former students was so vast," said Martinez. "Many times I'd be with her and she'd get international calls from former students. She touched people in a really deep and abiding way."

Sinsabaugh was a member of the Sandpipers for 65 years, a member of the Redondo Union Alumni Association, and kept up to date on what was happening at the school.

"She was always at the homecoming festivities and a lot of the 50-year class reunions. She was a big part of maintaining the traditions of Redondo Union," said school staffer Tracy Hatting. "She was really looking forward to our 95th birthday celebration this August."

"I have the feeling that everyone who came into contact with her was her student forever. Her impact in the South Bay has been legendary," said Redondo Beach Unified School District Superintendent William Nunan.

A scholarship fund bearing her name has been helping aspiring journalists continue their education for over a decade. In lieu of flowers, contributions to The Helen Sinsabaugh-Jolene Combs Journalism Scholarship fund are requested. Donations can be sent care of Redondo Union High School, 631Vincent Park, Redondo Beach CA 90277.

A ceremony commemorating her contribution to the youth of Redondo Beach and the planting of a tree in her memory is planned for Friday, May 26 at Redondo Union High School. A memorial service will be held at the Manhattan Beach Community Church, 301 S. Peck Ave., 10 a.m. Saturday, May 27. ER