Mayfair students hang birdhouses in memory of late classroom assistant

Special needs students at Ethan Allen School decorated and hung birdhouses in memory of longtime faculty member Marsha Dougherty.

Students from Ethan Allen School on Tuesday, April 11, hold up birdhouses they decorated in honor of Marsha Dougherty, a classroom assistant who died last year. JACK TOMCZUK / TIMES PHOTO

Marsha Dougherty was a beloved faculty member at Ethan Allen School — so much so that she was called the “child whisperer” for her ability to connect with students with special needs.

Dougherty, who served as a classroom assistant, died in March 2018 at age 63, and last week, in her honor, students from Ethan Allen hung birdhouses they decorated on trees outside the school on Battersby Street in Mayfair.

The idea came from Brittany Luroe, who teaches an emotional support class for students in kindergarten through second grade. She teamed up with her brother, Brandon Luroe, who teaches the same class for students in grades three through five.

“(Dougherty) was a very dedicated person to the building of Ethan Allen,” Brittany Luroe said. “Marsha was from Texas, so she was a very strong Texas momma. She was very humorous.”

A memorial to longtime classroom assistant Marsha Dougherty sits outside Ethan Allen School in Mayfair. JACK TOMCZUK / TIMES PHOTO

Dougherty’s husband and daughters came to watch the students hang the birdhouses. Several of the students’ family members and classmates showed up to cheer them on.

“We think it’s really great that they’re keeping mom’s spirit today,” said Melody Connell, Dougherty’s daughter. “This was my mom’s greatest work.”

Connell said Dougherty spent a total of 21 years working for the School District of Philadelphia, including about 10 years at Ethan Allen and the rest not far away at Thomas Holme School.

The students made more than 20 birdhouses out of plastic jugs and bottles, and design themes included Spiderman, the Phillies and environmental scenes. They filled them with birdseed and hung them on Tuesday, April 23, a day after Earth Day.

Students chose their own themes for the birdhouses, which were hung outside Ethan Allen School in memory of Marsha Doughety, a longtime classroom assistant. JACK TOMCZUK / TIMES PHOTO

Most of the jugs were donated by City Tavern Restaurant in Old City, where one of the students’ parents works as a chief. The project also taught the kids about recycling, Brandon Luroe said.

“I think it’s a great idea because it brings the whole community together,” he said. ••

Jack Tomczuk can be reached at jtomczuk@newspapermediagroup.com