SEMINOLE — Judith Moody, a special-education teacher with a flair for the unconventional, celebrated Halloween by coming to school dressed as a Christmas tree.
Draped in ornaments, tinsel and strings of lights, she traipsed the halls of Bauder Elementary School until the mood, coupled with an available electric outlet, struck. Then she smiled, plugged herself in and struck an inviting pose.
Into a 30-year career at Bauder, Ms. Moody crammed teachable moments the way she filled plastic storage bins with supplies, assigning to each a clear label.
Out of disagreements between students came lessons in "I-statements" ("When you push me on the playground, I feel angry.")
Field trips to Disney World or the Special Olympics evoked lessons about how to behave on the bus. She taught cleanliness at a school sleepover by dressing up as "Dirty Dan, the dirtiest man in the world."
And she turned her kidney transplant into a lesson on kidney functions, like producing red cells and regulating blood pressure. The illness forced her retirement in 2003 from Bauder, the job she started in 1973 after graduating from the University of South Florida.
Ms. Moody, who was among the first teachers at her school to lead classrooms that combined able-bodied children with those who had special needs — an "inclusion model" that continues today — died Friday, of kidney failure. She was 59.
"Judy was the consummate advocate for exceptional students," said Carol Thomas, a former principal at Bauder who is now a regional Pinellas County School District assistant superintendent. "She believed that they had skills and abilities, set high expectations and stood beside them."
She was the kind of teacher that students never forgot. Joey Minarik had Ms. Moody at Bauder 30 years ago.
"She was an excellent teacher," said Minarik, 41, who works at Seminole Lanes. "She helped me with my homework. I miss her. I am thinking about her all the time."
She taught adults, too. After her father died in 1974, Ms. Moody persuaded her mother, Margaret, to return to teaching, coaching her with easy-to-remember phrases like, "kindness and courage," and, "Don't demand, direct."
The Council for Exceptional Children once named Ms. Moody its teacher of the year, according to her family.
The Bluefield, W.Va., native never married but embraced many loves, chief among them her retro 1950s furniture, dinners at Red Mesa, fireworks on St. Pete Beach, and her Clyde Butcher photographs of cypress trees.
She hung artists' sketches of some of her students' faces, not far from an autographed portrait of Bette Davis. During her illness, she kept a devotional by her bedside. It is still bookmarked to a page that reads, "Laughter is a tranquilizer that does not have side effects."
Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or firstname.lastname@example.org.