Kathleen Worthington, 92, a Milton School Teacher Who Left a Lasting Impression

Kathleen Worthington, a much-beloved longtime fifth-grade teacher at Milton School in Rye, N.Y., died June 5 at her home in Rye. She was 92.

Kathleen Worthington
Published June 7, 2024 11:15 AM
3 min read

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Kathleen Worthington, a much-beloved longtime fifth-grade teacher at Milton School in Rye whose influence is still felt among a generation of children who came through her classroom from 1970 to 1998, died June 5 at her home in Rye. She was 92.

Her passing was attended lovingly by her husband of 68 years, George Worthington, who had offered care, companionship, and good humor through her recent decline from dementia. Her family, including her son, Christopher Worthington, and her three cherished grandchildren, also surrounded her during her final days. 

Kathleen was a lover of life and art, a survivor of polio at age 16 who emerged from that experience with a fierce dedication to living well, managing adversity with grace, and appreciating beauty in everything.

She was born Kathleen Ahern on Jan. 13, 1932, in New Rochelle, the daughter of Maurice and Margaret Ahern. Her father was a police officer and her mother a homemaker.

She attended St. Gabriel High School in New Rochelle and then Fordham University. She met George during a 1955 trip to London. They married a year later, and after the birth of their son in 1957, Kathleen taught at a preschool and then at Holy Family School in New Rochelle while, earning a master’s degree in education at Fordham.

“She was highly, highly respected. (Kathleen) was always looking for something special in a student and trying to bring out the best.”

-ALLISON PRAY, MILTON SCHOOL TEACHER

In 1970, she was hired at Milton School to teach fifth grade, a position she would hold for 28 years. The hundreds of children who moved through her classroom rarely forgot her unique, guiding presence, colleagues said. 

“She was highly, highly respected,” said Allison Pray, a current Milton School teacher whom Kathleen mentored. “She was always looking for something special in a student and trying to bring out the best.”

Her approach to teaching focused not on test scores but on nurturing the child as a unique and developing person. She always said her mission was to help children see their place in the world. While strict, she was also fair, emphasizing kindness and confidence; she encouraged a relentless curiosity and self-expression. 

She dressed impeccably every day, which she said was a sign of respect to the children and the profession. The highlight of her class’ year was an annual spring trip to a performance at Lincoln Center. She founded a mimeographed school newspaper called “The Blue Lion” for her students to publish stories about exemplary class projects, musical performances, or Rye School Board actions.

Students acknowledged her influence as they moved beyond Rye. When film producer and former Rye resident Greg Berlanti signed a $1 million Hollywood deal in 1998, he credited Kathleen in The Rye Record for cultivating his love for theater and writing.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who was her student in the early 1970s, said: “There is no doubt that Mrs. Worthington played an outsized role in helping me become the person I am today.”

The Rye School District named her Teacher of the Year in 1996. Toward the end of her tenure at Milton, the school established an annual award in her name to honor a student who showed character, which she defined as “doing what is right, even when no one is looking” – words she displayed prominently in the front of her classroom. 

In retirement, Kathleen spent her days reading, practicing tai chi, drawing, and painting, adorning the walls of her Blind Brook Lodge apartment with her art. She also wrote poetry and tended to a garden that abutted the green fields of the Rye Recreation Park. 

And for many years, she often said, she was rarely able to walk down Purchase Street without hearing an eager greeting called out by a former student, often from across the street or down the block.

A celebration of her life will be planned in Rye for later this summer.

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