University News

Sarah Knight Memorial Scholarship for Bilingual Education

January 30, 2013

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MACOMB, IL -- When Sarah Knight '09 of Marion, Iowa, was trying to decide where to attend college, she decided on a whim to visit Western. Her father, Gregory, earned a physical education degree in 1978, but she had not given Western much thought. That visit changed everything.

"It was an absolutely beautiful day when we decided to visit," said Sarah's mother, Susan. "It was love at first sight for Sarah. She didn't know a soul when we dropped her off that August, but obviously she found her home."

While working on her bilingual/bicultural education degree with a Spanish minor, Sarah studied abroad in Guadalajara, Mexico, and served on the Student Orientation Board. She graduated in 2009 and was hired as a bilingual kindergarten teacher at Hillcrest Elementary School in East Moline (IL).

"Her passion was for her work," her mother said. "She loved being a teacher and she particularly loved her children at Hillcrest. She was committed to maintaining their culture and helping them transition to English."

Sarah died unexpectedly on Sept. 26, 2011 of myocarditis, a viral infection in her heart. Her family, parents Susan and Gregory, along with brothers, David and Tyler, recently established a scholarship to honor the love and dedication Sarah brought to her classroom. The Sarah Knight Memorial Scholarship will offer financial assistance to students studying to become bilingual/bicultural educators, and may be applied to the recipient's study abroad expenses.

"We have to do something to share Sarah with others. We have to continue her legacy," said Susan. "Sarah's time in the classroom was too short, and this is one way we can continue her mission."

"This scholarship in Sarah's memory will help our students so much. Many of our majors have great financial need and now have an added (and expensive) requirement to study abroad. Sarah's scholarship will help students achieve their degrees and enter the field that she so loved," said Gloria Delany-Barmann, bilingual/bicultural program director.

"Sarah was a gifted educator and totally dedicated to helping her young students navigate the American educational system while preserving their own cultures," added Carla Paciotto, bilingual/bicultural program adviser. "We are privileged to administer the scholarship in her name, and to prepare teachers to follow in Sarah's footsteps. That is the most fitting tribute we can give her."

Those who knew Sarah refer to her as a bright, spirited and delightful young woman. She was passionate about teaching and loved her students. Now, the Sarah Knight Memorial Scholarship for Bilingual/Bicultural Education at Western will reward those with the same personal integrity and career goals.

For scholarship information and applications, contact Delany-Barmann or Paciotto at Western's Department of Educational and Interdisciplinary Studies, 115 Horrabin Hall, (309) 298-1183 or

Posted By: Julie Murphy, WIU Foundation (
Office of University Relations