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Posted on Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

Scarlett Middle School community mourns loss of beloved math teacher Scott Turner

By Danielle Arndt

The Scarlett Middle School community — past, present and future — is mourning the loss of a popular, dedicated and beloved teacher this week.

Scott Turner, 42, a long-time mathematics teacher at Scarlett Middle School, died Monday night, after battling esophageal cancer since this summer.

So many close to Turner said he was the type of person who made an immediate impact.


Scott Turner


Connie Gibson, whose daughter was in Turner's Algebra class this year, said: "I've only known him since September, but it's been rough."

"We're having a real tough time of it," she said quietly.

Parents, staff, students and even past students all were rocked as the news of Turner's death spread Tuesday. Tears flowed at the school and the district went into crisis mode to help the Scarlett community cope.

Teachers and administrative staff met with eighth-graders to share with them the devastating news of Turner's death shortly after they arrived at school Tuesday. Staff told the rest of the student body later that morning.

Scarlett Principal Gerald Vazquez also informed parents with children at the school about the loss in an email early Tuesday.

"We will be keeping a close eye on all of our students throughout the day and the rest of this week," Vazquez said in his email.

School counselors and members of the district's crisis team have been available Tuesday and Wednesday to support and comfort the staff and students at Scarlett, Huron High School and other buildings former Scarlett kids now attend.

"We are with the students, counseling them, talking to them, making sure they know we are here for them," Vazquez said. "... We are sharing in our grief in the loss of Mr. Turner."

Turner taught math at Scarlett for at least 18 years. He helped to organize an annual Math-a-thon to benefit the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital for 10 years.

Within the decade, Scarlett Middle School raised a total of about $10,937 to support St. Jude's mission of preventing, treating and curing pediatric cancers and other life-threatening diseases, according to its website.

Gibson credited Turner with making math fun for her daughter. She said as a parent, she knew she could depend on him.

"24/7," Gibson said. "He really went out of his way to help students — email, his blog, homework help sites online, all the parents had his phone number and could call anytime.

Service Information


  • Thursday, Jan. 17
    3 to 9 p.m.
    Harry J. Will Funeral Home
    37000 W. 6 Mile Road
    Livonia, MI 48152
  • Funeral

    • Friday, Jan. 18
      10 a.m. — Lie in state
      10:30 a.m. — Mass
      St. Kenneth Catholic Church
      14951 N. Haggerty Road
      Plymouth, MI 48170
    • Scarlett Memorial Celebration

      • Tuesday, Jan. 22
        6 p.m.
        Scarlett Middle School auditorium
        3300 Lorraine St.
        Ann Arbor, MI 48108
      • In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial contributions be made to St. Jude Children's Hospital in Scott's honor.

"He will be missed but I'm so glad my daughter had him."

Two of Charlotte Mayhew's children had Turner for math at Scarlett. She echoed Gibson's sentiments, adding that Turner was one of the most dedicated and patient teachers her children have ever had. She said he always was responsive to parents' concerns and students' needs, meeting with them on his lunch hour and before or after school.

"He was so flexible and just really enthusiastic about teaching," she said. "And being enthusiastic about math with middle schoolers is really important."

Mayhew said Turner was open with his classes about undergoing cancer treatments. And he continued teaching even during the weeks he had chemotherapy, Gibson said.

"He worked last week," Mayhew said. "Nobody was aware of how sick he was, I think. He just kept going. It was always about his students."

For Sharon Turner, Scott's mother, that was how he always was.

"That was Scott. That was just what he did," she said. "He was always a wonderful, very special young man. He was good to everyone and passionate about everyone he ever loved. He had a heart of gold."

Scott Turner leaves behind his wife, Kelli, and a 17-year-old son, Austin. He was the youngest of four brothers and two sisters.

Sharon Turner said Scott's diagnosis was particularly difficult for their family, as Scott's father and one of his uncles also died from the same cancer. But Scott had an upbeat attitude, his mother said.

"He kept very positive all the time. So we were supportive of him. He was convinced this was something he could beat and would beat and of course we wanted him to, too. So this is still so raw," she said of his death.

What always will stand out to Sharon about her son was his willingness to lend a hand and to do for others.

"He would help anyone and everyone," she said. "If someone called him to do something for them, it was never later; it was always: 'I'll do it now.' He would drop anything for a friend in need."

Scott Turner's love of the Boston Red Sox was something former student Elinor Chambers will never forget. Chambers, a college sophomore at Tulane University, had Turner for seventh-grade math at Scarlett Middle School.

When Chambers had him, within the first couple days of school, Turner brought in a box of stuff — stuff he liked and wanted his students to know about him, she said. She recalled him pulling out a bunch of Red Sox memorabilia, a CD with all of his favorite bands and a variety of other mementos.

"He talked about his kid ... and his wife and showed us all the things he was into and it really set the tone for the year," Chambers said. "It was his way of having us get to know him."

That was what Chambers respected about him as a teacher, she said.

"He didn't put himself above all of us. I think he was unique in that way. It was like we were all in this together and when we didn't understand, he didn't make it our problem. He welcomed our questions, even if we were clueless or didn't get it at all, he laid it all out for us."

Chambers is a pre-medical student at Tulane but she still has thoughts about teaching and Turner's impact is one of the reasons.

"He's one of my favorite teachers to this day and is hands-down the best math teacher I've ever had," she said. "And I've taken a lot of math — all through high school and three semesters at college."

After receiving the news that Turner had died, Chambers posted a message on her Facebook page, like so many others who loved and knew him. She credited him with making the "always awkward and, at times, awful" experience of middle school so much less awkward for her.

"Words cannot describe how great a loss this is," she wrote, "not just for those who knew and were inspired by Mr. Turner, like myself, but also for all of the students who will miss out on experiencing class with a truly exceptional teacher."

Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at


Meghan L.

Mon, Jan 21, 2013 : 3:53 a.m.

I was in Mr. Turner's first math class at Scarlett. He was an amazing teacher. I am now a teacher myself and have to say he was one to look to as a role model. My heart and prayers go out to Scott's family. He will be missed by many generations.


Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 3:15 a.m.

Scott was an exceptional teacher and will be greatly missed. At the same time, his memory will live on in the hearts and minds of the many students that he had a positive impact on. Scott was a favorite of my child because he cared and he held all students to the highest of expectations. Albert Howard's son called Mr. Turner a 'protector'. I love that. I think that he protected every student's right to and need for positive attention and guided direction. I could see 'what would Mr. Turner want/expect' becoming a mantra. The loss of Mr. Turner is a blow to the Scarlett Family. Fortunately that family has a very strong base. While this article was understandably written after his passing, it certainly could have been written a year ago in honor of his outstanding work. I can think of five current Scarlett teachers for whom similar sentiments could be written. Exceptional teachers. There may be more, but I can only speak of teachers my child has had. There are many good teachers. There are a rare few who transcend the position. Mr. Turner is one of the gems. Rest in Peace, your legacy will be carried far and wide by your former students.


Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 1:48 a.m.

Mr. Turner was such a kind person and excellent teacher to both my children. I am sorry that he died so young.

Josue Ventura

Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 1:45 a.m.

Well, i am a student of Scarlett Middle School and Tuesday was a very sad day. My CCA advisor had told us the new about Mr. Turner. In the middle of her speech she started to cry, all i thought about was my sister. She loved Mr. Turner. I was extremely sad although i didnt have him. As i walked through the hallways i saw that 7th and 8th graders were crying and hugging. My principal Mr. Vasquez called each grade one at a time to the auditorium. He made a speech, he answered questions and we went on to third hour. I feel really bad for the 8th graders that had him this year. My science teacher told us that his dad died of esophageal cancer as well. We will have a memorial celebration on Tuesday the 22nd.

Gary Haller

Fri, Jan 18, 2013 : 12:49 a.m.

I did not know this teacher.. My children went to Dexter School.. How ever there are always a couple of really special people who work as teachers for our kids who are a cut above the rest. This man was one of them. I can tell this from the article. A really nice guy who genuinely cared for all the kids in his classes. who made a class of mathematics fun. Its terrible when some one this age passes away especially in this case My heart goes out to all that are suffering from the loss of this very special man Gary Haller Webster Town ship Michigan


Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 7:31 p.m.

I was fortunate enough to have Mr. Turner for an advanced math class back in 2003. According to this article, I guess my class was the first one to have donated to St. Jude's hospital. I remember him stressing the importance of this program. He was an inspiring teacher and made the most difficult concepts so clear to my peers and I. One of my most vivid memories of Mr. Turner was him helping our entire class memorize the quadratic formula. He came in and played the Notre Dame fight song and sang the quadratic formula to it flawlessly. To this day, whenever Michigan plays ND, I always end their song with, "all divided by 2a." There are some teachers that I had growing up that did a decent job. He was not one of them. He made the most distracted students excel and the most attentive students exceed expectations. Thank you Mr. Turner, Chris B.

Emily Polaczyk

Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 5:05 p.m.

I was a student of Mr. Turner's in the late 90's, and this article is a beautiful testimony of who he was to so many. His relationships with students were so positive and evident -- a few girls started calling him "Uncle T" in our class and it stuck. This loss is monumental to the Scarlett community, and many of my fellow classmates have recognized that through social media. I am a teacher now -- his positivity and energy has impacted my practice. Thanks, Uncle T.

Danielle Arndt

Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 5:29 p.m.

Emily, thanks for sharing this memory and for your compliments. I did not know nor had I ever met Scott Turner, but reading so many of the social media posts you referenced and speaking to his former students, like yourself, gave me chills. His loss truly was felt by so many.


Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 4:20 p.m.

What a beautifully written article. I did not know him but you seemed to capture his spirit and I felt the sadness of his passing just from reading this. I can't imagine what his friends, families, and students (current and former) who actually had the pleasure of knowing him are all feeling.

Danielle Arndt

Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 5:31 p.m.

Murf, thank you for reading and for the compliment. Reporting on loss can be difficult. As journalists, we feel for the families we reach out to and know it can be challenging and emotional for people to speak about their lost loved ones. Whenever families are willing to do so, I always consider it one of the greatest privileges about this job and it is something I hold very dear.

Albert Howard

Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 4:05 p.m.

I remember him well from parent/teacher meetings. My son Paul says that Mr. Turner was a 'protector'.


Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 3:31 p.m.

I didn't know him but I do know that he made a difference in his short life. My condolences to all that knew him and benefited from it.


Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 3:20 p.m.

Very sad. Teachers matter. They shape and change lives. Praise them. Hold them in high regard. Thank you to Mr. Turner for mattering to your students and for devoting your time to our kids. When, at the next sporting event you attend, the crowd rises to applaud another of our country's heros, make sure you think about the teachers who give of themselves as well.


Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 2:59 p.m.

In honor of Mr. Turner, the Huron Emery News is receiving condolences on behalf of his family.


Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 2:41 p.m.

Teachers are heroes in so many ways. Rest in peace Mr. Turner, it sounds like you touched a lot of people here on Earth and I've no doubt you are doing the same thing in heaven right now.


Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 2:39 p.m.

My thoughts are with Scott's family, friends and students. Loss of life is never easy, even less so, when the departed are as young as Scott was.

Paula Gardner

Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 1:11 p.m.

My hope for Mr. Turner's family is that they'll take comfort from knowing - and perhaps learning the depth - of just how influential he was for so many years and for so many children and families. That includes my own, despite my children not being in his classes. I'm grateful for his presence at Scarlett, which will continue due to his legacy of teaching excellence and positive support for students.


Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 1 p.m.

Scott touched so many peoples lives, mine included! You will be deeply missed by all! Thanks for all your kindness and support! Most of all Thank You for your kind words not even two weeks ago when my Moms passed! You are forever in my peoples hearts! Deb P.


Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 12:58 p.m.

Sorry to hear about this nice young man. Do you think you could do a story on this type of cancer including symptoms, treatments and related issues, etc? That may prove helpful and useful.

Paula Gardner

Thu, Jan 17, 2013 : 1:07 p.m.

I learned more about esophageal cancer while reporting last fall on Dennis Serras' battle with it. Here is that story, which contains some info: Here is some info from the Cleveland Clinic. It's a common cancer and the prognosis remains, in their word, 'dismal.'