Barbara Jill Presler, Ed.D. September 30, 1944 (Chicago, Illinois)—August 30, 2019 (Mesa, Arizona) Bobbie Jill Presler was born at the Grant Hospital in Chicago, Illinois to Muriel Lenore (Bamberger) Cerkel and Mitchell William Cerkel on September 30, 1944. She went to a state funded nursery school, then attended Von Humboldt Elementary School in Chicago. When she was seven years old, her mother graduated college and became a teacher. They moved around that time and Bobbie Jill went to Adlai E. Stevenson Elementary School in Chicago. She was in gifted education and learned things like Spanish, algebra, and worked as a substitute teacher when the principal couldn’t find a sub. She rarely went to class. The majority of her elementary school years were spent preparing for the spelling bee, and she had some funny memories related to those experiences that she often shared with her children. Bobbie Jill attended Calumet High School, and a counselor there explained to her mother that college was unlikely. So, her mother sent her to the Art Institute of Chicago’s Junior School on Saturdays, and Bobbie Jill loved every minute of it. At the Art Institute, she studied music with a second chair of the Chicago symphony and also studied art. At age 16, Bobbie Jill went to Michigan State University on a music scholarship. She played the oboe. Bobbie Jill changed her first name to Barbara, frequently changed her major, and ultimately decided on art as a major with a focus on lithography (printmaking). She graduated from Michigan State with a degree in art and a master’s degree. Barbara met Lawrence Irvin Presler in the basement of Mason Abbott Hall at Michigan State at a resident assistant staff meeting when they were both students. Upon graduation, Larry took a job with IBM as an engineer. Then, they were married, and Barbara spent two years as an Army wife in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. She taught art and made lots of new friends. Following Larry’s service to the US military, they returned to East Lansing, Michigan and Barbara taught Educational Psychology for Michigan State, and earned a second master’s degree in educational administration. Women didn’t usually major in administration; it was all men, two nuns, and Barbara.
Larry and Barbara had their first daughter, Jill, in East Lansing. Then, the family moved to Deerfield, Illinois for five years. Barbara was on the Human Relations Commission and taught art for the park district. Following that, the family moved to Buffalo Grove, Illinois for 3 years, where their second daughter, Sara, was born. From there, the family really started traveling with IBM. The joke around the house was that IBM meant, “I’ve Been Moved.” First, they went to Raleigh, North Carolina for three years where Mike, their son, came into the family. Then, to Clearwater, Florida for five years, where Barbara wrote for the Clearwater Sun, a Hearst newspaper, then taught middle school English and art. At that time, she earned a full graduate major in writing from the University of South Florida.
From there, the family moved to Tucson, Arizona where Barbara taught community college writing and humanities as an adjunct professor. Barbara started a doctorate in curriculum at Northern Arizona University in the summers of 1991-92, where the family inhabited a tiny dorm room in Flagstaff and shared a hot plate and other college amenities with various individuals. She went on to teach English in Mohave County, Arizona for the Colorado River Union High School District. Barbara started an alternative district high school, Bridgeway, and was its first principal. This was an important resource for students who would otherwise be dismissed from the educational system, and Barbara ensured all students received an opportunity to graduate from high school. She served as a middle school principal in Needles, California, became active in American Association of University Women, Democratic Women, and was the educational representative for the Bullhead City government grants commission. In the evenings, Barbara taught for Mohave Community College. Her children remember grading lots of English papers around the dinner table as a routine family activity.
Larry retired from IBM, then passed on at the age of 55. Barbara was a widow and, now, single mother with two young children at home. It was time to go back to school and finish earning her doctoral degree to better support her children and increase opportunities for her future career. During this time in her doctoral program, Barbara had three jobs: 1) working full time teaching elementary art year-round in the public schools, 2) working for the University of Nevada, and 3) working at Henderson Community College. The school district administrators in the public schools kept training Barbara in anticipation of future job opportunities and gave her another “side job” mentoring 20 new teachers. All while in a doctoral program. In March of 2005, Barbara was asked to join the Title I program for the Arizona Department of Education, heading the school wide program, which she took on the road all over the state of Arizona. In addition to this, Barbara was the specialist for about 25 school districts. In 2006, Barbara earned her doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of Nevada Las Vegas. Her dissertation research was based on a national study which included all 50 states on the principal’s role in promoting standards based professional development.
Barbara was then promoted to Coordinator for Neglected and Delinquent Children and supervised educational programs and federal funding for Arizona Department of Corrections, the Arizona Supreme Court, and the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections through the Arizona Department of Education. She was the first person to visit all 13 county detention centers and the precious people that lovingly taught incarcerated children. She started the Arizona Alternative Education Association, worked on a Department of Economic Security (DES) committee for families in crisis, and the Homeless Commission. She maintained oversight for a group of about 25 schools and continued to speak nationally on the subject of alternative education, including presenting on her doctoral research. Barbara helped write and edit Arizona Governor Napolitano’s online book for dually adjudicated children with various law agency groups.
Retiring out from the Department of Education in 2009, Barbara started teaching English for upper division education majors online for Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff and Show Low. She taught for Arizona State University graduate students in education on the topics of climate and discipline. In addition, she taught various graduate teaching majors online for Grand Canyon University and on campus for freshmen in English. During this time, she also taught writing for Maricopa County Community College at the Glendale and South Mountain campuses and at Coconino Community College online. Barbara served as Co-President of the Phoenix chapter of the American Association of University Women.
Known for her love of God, artistic talent, shopping expertise, dining out fun, travel adventures, and sense of humor, Barbara will be very missed by her family, church friends, and neighbors. She was an excellent Christian Science Practitioner, wrote numerous published articles, and was of service to others. Barbara was a Christian Scientist her entire life and helped many people through prayer. Her favorite channel was PBS, she paid attention to the news, and was very intelligent. Barbara was an excellent writer and editor. She enjoyed swimming at the pool, house hunting, going to the beach, watching movies, and playing scrabble. She loved her children, unconditionally.
Barbara Jill Presler is survived by her daughter Jill Lynn Stidham and husband Clayton “Sonny” of Show Low, Arizona, her daughter Sara Rose Presler and wife Alissa of Mesa, Arizona and her son Michael Brandon Presler of Phoenix, Arizona. She was “Nama” to her grandchildren Madison Ashley Wiscombe and husband James, Lauren Alexis Stidham, Lawrence James Presler, David Lanson Presler, and Piper Joan Presler. She was present on the day each grandchild was born and loved them so very much. She was a wonderful sister to her brother Howard Jeffrey Cerkel of Dunedin, Florida. Her dog, Rosie, will miss their daily walks together and unlimited gourmet treats. Barbara was preceded in death by her father Mitchell William Cerkel, her mother Muriel Lenore Cerkel, and her husband Lawrence Irvin Presler.
Barbara loved her mother. We loved our mother. We encourage you to love your mother, grandmother, and important women in your life, too. Love you, Mom. Your life is a life worthy of celebration.