Former Miramonte Teacher Passes Away after Battle with Cancer

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(Courtesy of the Denny Family)
Well respected Miramonte science teacher and environmentalist Barbara Denny passed away in July. She loved introducing young people to the wonders of science and was so proud of her many students who went on to advanced degrees and careers in the field.

    Some girls learned how to use tools, others card playing or camping skills from their fathers, but Barbara Hayek Denny learned the love of science from her dad Art, an inventor and engineer. From him, she discovered science could be fun and girls could prosper in the field, which she certainly did. Her mother, Delores, supplied faith and a love of God consistent with science.
    Barbara, who was born May 3, 1953, passed away July 30, surrounded by family and friends.
    As a young woman, Barbara not only excelled in science, she also played the church organ and mastered the accordion.
    “She even played the accordion at our wedding reception,” her husband, William Denny, fondly recalls.
    After earning her BA degree in 1975, Barbara worked as a med tech at Greenwich Hospital in Connecticut and later at St. Francis Hospital in San Francisco.
    Barbara married William Denny in 1987 and the couple moved to Orinda in 1991. They have two adult children, Brendan (35), who works for Safeway, and Kathleen (30) a third-year medical student in Portland, OR.
    Discovering a desire to teach and wanting to foster a love of critical analysis, Barbara began working at Miramonte High School in 2001, where she taught biotech and environmental sciences, eventually becoming the AP Environmental Science 
teacher.
    While at Miramonte, the enthusiastic teacher added faculty advisory for the Nature Club to her activities. She helped secure a $5,000 garden grant from the California Department of Education to revitalize an unused vegetable garden site at Miramonte – a site which became certified as a National Wildlife Schoolyard Habitat and a Bay Friendly Garden.
    Going beyond the Miramonte campus, Barbara also worked closely with the Wagner Ranch (now Orinda) Nature Area and with the Friends of the Orinda Creeks, rehabilitating the creek along Miramonte’s campus, as well as accompanying students on field trips to the Pacific Rain Forest.
    Her recognition for establishing the garden at Miramonte, as well as her many volunteer efforts to preserve, educate and advocate on behalf of environmental concerns, led to The Orinda Association selecting Barbara as the 2011 William Penn Mott, Jr. Environmental Award winner.
    “Barbara’s hallmark of kindness enriched Miramonte students,” said her husband. “Even after she retired from teaching, Barbara kept track of her students. She was so proud to see many earn doctorates and become active in RNA research during the pandemic.”
    Barbara and William retired to a lake in Idaho where Barbara enjoyed watching eagles and egrets each morning, as well as listening to spiritual music and opera. As her illness progressed, the couple moved to Lacey, WA, to be closer to their daughter.
    In lieu of flowers, Barbara requested contributions to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, www.stjude.org. Condolences can be sent to Wdenny53@gmail.com.

Sally Hogarty can be reached at sally@theorindanews.com.

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