John Shefelbine


John L Shefelbine
01 May 1944 - 26 May 2016
Capital City Squares


From Program for the memorial service held by the Sacramento Friends Meeting (Quakers) of which John was a member for many years


We are gathered today to celebrate the life of our Friend John Shefelbine. The service will take the form of a Quaker Meeting for Worship, based on silent worship and contemplation.

The memorial will begin with the singing of "Down by the Riverside" by John's family. The Meeting Clerk will welcome all, and a Friend will read the Memorial Minute about John's life.

We will then enter a period of silence. During this time you may be moved to rise and offer a brief remembrance of John or other brief reflection. Please allow a space of silence after someone speaks so that we may embrace the message fully.

The Meeting will last for about an hour. It will close as we join in singing "Simple Gifts" followed by the shaking of hands.

All are invited to remain to speak with the family and partake of refreshments.

A Brief Biography

John was born in Silver City, New Mexico, and at a young age moved to a remote desert site in Chihuahua, Mexico, where he spent his boyhood playing in abandoned mines with his older brother Hank. He started attending boarding school at the age of 11 and was 16 when his father died in a mining accident. In the 1960s, John was a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War and, after college, served as a VISTA volunteer in remote Native American communities in Alaska and Idaho.

After further education John taught at Rough Rock Navajo Reservation in Arizona, where he embarked on endeavors such as driving a bus full of students to California to see the ocean for the first time. This and many other adventures were pursued with his future wife, Janet, a fellow educator whom he met on the Reservation. They settled in Santa Fe where John taught reading by day and built a house during nights and weekends while living in a small trailer with his young family including his first daughters, Sarah and Anna. The third daughter, Rachel, followed several years later, and when she was one year old the family moved to Palo Alto, California, so that John could earn a PhD in reading education.

Dyslexic himself, John struggled to read as a child and he chose a career committed to training educators how to teach reading. His first professorship was in Austin, Texas. After several years in Texas, he and Janet divorced when John came out as a gay man. After a brief time in New York City he settled in Sacramento where he lived many happy years. Here he pursued his passions of biking and outdoor adventure, enjoying the Sierras and the Pacific coast and traveling the Canyonlands, Utah. Committed to his Quaker community, he had an extensive network of wonderful friends.

John will be remembered as a devoted father who remained dedicated to family. He will be remembered as a passionate educator with a great sense of humor who strove to provide his students with the skills and tools necessary to teach all children how to read. He will be remembered as a lover of life who found joy in things great and small: his grandchildren, his teaching, his lawn work, dancing. He will be missed.

Simple Gifts
'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come 'round right.

From California Reading & Literature Project Sacramento Region

John Shefelbine was born in Silver City, New Mexico and at a young age moved with his family to a remote desert site in Chihuahua, Mexico where he spent his boyhood. John received a BA (Stanford), a Master's (Harvard), and PhD/EdS (Stanford). During his early career in education John served in communities of the Nez Perce (Idaho), an Athabascan village (Alaska), Rough Rock Demonstration School (Navajo Nation), and Sante Fe, New Mexico. Upon receipt of his doctorate, John held professorships at University of Texas at Austin, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York City, and California State University Sacramento, California. He found his professional home at Sacramento State where he taught for 25 years. John considered himself very fortunate to have found a vocation that he loved. Dyslexic himself, he struggled to learn to read as a child. Throughout his career he strove to provide educators with the skills and tools necessary to teach all children to read.

John had many areas of leadership and academic work, including the California Reading Association and the California Reading and Literature Project (CRLP). John's work with CRLP spanned more than two decades. Beyond his role as Co-Director and Principal Investigator of the Sacramento regional site, his body of work served as a major influence in professional development programs created by CRLP, helping teachers and administrators from preschool through high school. He was the principal author or co-author of numerous CRLP signature professional development publications over the years, with a particular focus on assessment and instruction, serving the language and literacy needs of culturally and linguistically diverse student populations. His Literacy and Framework for Assessment and Instruction, included in several Reading Language Arts Frameworks for California Public Schools, became the theoretical basis for much of the content development of CRLP.

Beyond his scholarly contributions, John served as a dedicated and enthusiastic mentor to countless graduate students, teachers, and teacher leaders. He had a wicked sense of humor and a repertoire of personal stories, coupled with the highest of expectations, thus motivating and inspiring all those who had the good fortune of knowing him to excel in their practice. He leaves a powerful legacy that can be witnessed in classroom reading instruction across the state. He will be sorely missed.

From Center for the Collaborative Classroom

This past week Center for the Collaborative Classroom lost our colleague and friend, John Shefelbine. John was a very public advocate for early reading throughout California and the country, and we were privileged to work closely with him in the development of the SIPPS (Systematic Instruction in Phonological Awareness, Phonics, and Sight Words) program over many years.

John was a tireless and forceful champion for rigorous and systematic early reading instruction. He devoted himself to providing materials and professional development that would both support teachers as they taught and lead to excellence in instruction. He was also meticulous and, for those who worked with him, maddeningly devoted to perfection. Fortunately, as a balance, he also possessed a wicked sense of humor that he exercised frequently and often at his own expense.

John impacted the lives of many, many students, teachers, and colleagues over a long career. He also served as a model of integrity and commitment to literacy for many CCC staff members. All of us at CCC will miss him and continue to rely on his memory in the future.

John Shefelbine.jpg Here is John at his retirement party from California State University, Sacramento, with part of the CCC family. We will miss him-and his bright smile, infectious laugh, and sharp sense of humor-terribly.