Steve Sonntag, a retired Manteca educator that was beloved by more than three decades of Manteca High School students, has passed away.
A well-known Spanish teacher at the city’s namesake high school, Sonntag spent more than 30 years working closely with students and kept in touch with those that he taught long after they left his classroom to embark on their respective lives.
Described by one former student as “Manteca’s Mr. Rogers,” Sonntag remained involved in the education of the area’s youth well into his retirement – posting on his Facebook page less than two weeks before he passed away about his progress with students that he was tutoring.
And while he was suffering from an unknown illness at the time, Sonntag still found a way to impart wisdom on the more than 1,400 people that connected with him on social media.
“Today, we fall back an hour. Please also consider the following,” Sonntag wrote in a post before end-daylight savings time kicked in that was shared and quoted by multiple people that followed him. “Fall back to reflect on what is important to you. Fall back to reflect on who is important to you. Fall back to enjoy extra time in your life.
“Then, move forward with enthusiasm.”
Known colloquially by his former students as “Senor Sonntag,” his Facebook page turned into a makeshift memorial from dozens of former students who talked about how he touched their lives in one way or another during their time in his classroom.
Manteca High graduate and former Bulletin staffer Brandon Bowers – a newspaper editor in Arizona – offering a touching tribute to a man that was known for his kindness as well as his patience.
“He was one of the most caring and patient teachers at Manteca High, and he made an effort to reach all of his students – even the quiet freshman purposefully sitting in the back of his crowded Spanish 1 class,” Bowers wrote. “He kept in close contact with many of us over the years – all the posts I’m seeing about him on Facebook are an amazing testament to what a great person he was.”
Stephanie Campiotti, who followed Sonntag into the world of education, said that she’s going to miss the annual birthday wishes that he would share on the pages of his former students – and the wisdom he was always willing to impart.
“Our town has lost a truly wonderful man. Senor Sontag was probably the nicest teacher I ever had,” Campiotti wrote. “Every conversation he had with you was genuine and sincere. His passion for his students’ success and well-being was unwavering.
“My sister put it best by saying that he was Manteca High’s very own Mr. Rogers.”
Sonntag’s wisdom will live on in a number of books that he penned about education for both teachers and students to find success in the classroom.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.