Popular Former Teacher at Del Valle and Acalanes high schools dies at 81

So, after writing earlier this week about the poor teacher in the Acalanes Union High School District from long ago who was dealing with alcohol problems, here is a perhaps more uplifting story about a teacher, Norma Alsterlind, who was great at her job, popular with students, and lived life to its fullest.

Of course, Alsterlind’s death is sad. I was sad about it when I read about in the Contra Costa Times the other day. She was my U.S. history teacher my junior year at Acalanes. I can’t say I remember a lot of details about that time in my life, but I do remember she had a remarkable way of helping students make connections between historical events and cultural attitudes and ideas. We learned lots of facts, but we learned about them in the context of their meaning within larger movements, their relevance to the present day, and their use in helping to help predict human behavior in the future.

She was a smart woman.

Here is her obituary from the Contra Costa Times:

Norma Mae Faulkner Alsterlind August 7, 1928 ~ July 19, 2010 Resident of Lafayette Norma Alsterlind died peacefully on July 19, 2010 in Walnut Creek after a long illness. She was 81 years old. Born in Dover, Delaware, Norma moved with her family to San Francisco at a very young age and lived there, across the street from Golden Gate Park, until leaving for college.

She graduated from Washington High School in 1946 before attending the University of California in Berkeley. She graduated with honors in Political Science from Cal in 1950 and returned to earn her Master’s Degree in Political Science in 1952. It was in Berkeley that Norma met and married Burt Alsterlind and first started a career in teaching. She taught Spanish and PE at a local junior high while Burt finished up his degree at Cal, but her career went on hiatus in 1956, when the young couple moved to Walnut Creek and started a family.

In 1968, after rearing three kids and seeing them off to school, Norma began teaching again at Del Valle High School in Walnut Creek. She taught US History there until 1979, when the school closed, and then she moved over to Acalanes High School in Lafayette, where she taught and chaired the History Department until her retirement in 1991. Throughout her tenure at Del Valle and Acalanes, Norma led the Model United Nations student club. From 1982 to 1989 Norma organized and led summer tours to Europe for groups of her Acalanes history students.

As she always did during her working career, in retirement, Norma enjoyed life to its fullest. She and her husband continued to make annual trips to Europe in addition to many other excursions to Asia, Africa, and South America. They continued to spend a great deal of time at Lake Tahoe, which was a very special place for Norma from her earliest childhood. Norma also continued her life long passions for classical music, the opera, the theater and many other interests she shared with her family and her many friends. Norma Alsterlind lived her life well.

She was a loving wife, mother, and grandmother who was absolutely adored by her entire family and whose memory will always be cherished. She was an award winning teacher who made a positive and lasting impression on a generation of students in Lafayette and Walnut Creek. She was a loyal, generous, and gracious friend who left an enormous void with her passing.

Norma is survived by Burt, her loving husband of 58 years; their children: Kurt Alsterlind, Kari Alsterlind Briggs, (husband Ron), and Bret Alsterlind (wife Pam); and their grandchildren: James Alsterlind, Olivia Alsterlind, Kamerin Briggs, Mitchell Briggs, Erik Alsterlind, Cari Alsterlind, and Brooke Alsterlind. A Memorial Service will be held at Lafayette Orinda Presbyterian Church on Saturday August 21 at 2:00. In lieu of flowers or cards, please donate to an Alzheimer’s related charity of your choice in Norma’s name.

5 thoughts on “Popular Former Teacher at Del Valle and Acalanes high schools dies at 81

  1. i've heard of her! she was an amazing teacher! Mrs. Alsterlind had the ability to see the unique potential in a student and help bring it out. She looked beyond text book learning to help discover an individuals potential.


  2. I remember Mrs. Alsterlind, although I never had her as a teacher. I attended and played football at Del Valle with her son Kurt. We were in the graduating class of “1975”. It was 42 years ago, but I remember it like yesterday!


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