Nurturing mentor dies

Early childhood education leader leaves everlasting impact on campus

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File Photo / The Advocate

By Anthony Kinney, Associate Editor

Intisar Shareef, chairperson of the early childhood education department at Contra Costa College, died of cancer on Saturday while away on medical leave. She was 71.

Dr. Shareef dedicated her life to childhood education and the amelioration of the lives of children around the world using her strong desire for child activism as fuel for her lifetime journey.

Her peers describe her as a phenomenal role model who possessed a leader’s aura of strength and compassion that touched the soul of anyone who crossed paths with her.

In her memory, family and friends will come together to lay her to rest today at 2:15 p.m. at Rolling Hills Memorial Park, 4100 Hilltop Drive in Richmond.

Shareef earned her bachelor’s degree from the College of New Jersey, formerly known as Trenton State College. She obtained her master’s in early childhood education from Newark State College.

She continued her education and received her doctoral degree in early childhood education from Nova Southwest University.

Shareef spent over 30 years at CCC as a professor in the Early Learning Center.

Over the past 15 years, the educator continued to impact the lives of children as she worked as a faculty member for the Program for Infant and Toddler Care (PITC) on campus.

She co-authored the publication “Practice on Building Bridges, a companion resource to Diversity in Early Care and Education,” 5th edition.

Shareef’s influence didn’t just impact local families in the community, her unconditional passion to help children led her to work on the behalf of children overseas as well.

She worked as a consultant for the organization The Whole Child International, a program striving to improve the quality of orphanages around the world.

In her time with the organization, she presented training courses in countries such as Nicaragua and El Salvador on the group’s behalf.

Early childhood education instructor Michell Naidoo met Shareef in class, as one the professor’s students, in the 1990s. Upon Naidoo’s graduation, they developed a friendship that grew even stronger once the two became colleagues at CCC’s Early Learning Center.

She said Shareef’s impact in the department will never be forgotten by the entire early childhood education staff and the countless children she helped nurture over the years.

Naidoo said Shareef was remarkably cultivated in the early childhood education field but even more knowledgeable in “life” and was a mentor to her and many other professors and students who came to her for guidance. 

Early childhood education professor Gail Benson said Shareef made a profound impression on her life and that she will always admire her.

“At a time when things were going bad in my life she came into it and helped me get back on the right track,” Benson said. “She was like my angel. I feel such a void now that she’s gone.”

Early childhood education major Tina Giles said she will remember Shareef as an astounding professor who was always willing to go the extra mile for her students and their educational goals.

“She was a tough teacher who expected a lot from her students, but it was always out of love. She was a mentor to me and I’m devastated she’s not here anymore to see me graduate.”

Naidoo said Dr. Shareef was a distinctive teacher that didn’t hesitate to engage her students. She used captivating examples of personal life experiences and infused them into her curriculum to bring an “out-of-the-box” approach to childhood education.

Dr. Shareef was known for her heartwarming smile and stylish wardrobe.

Draped in gold earrings, rings and bangles, her presence always provided an influential and caring ambiance for those around her.

“The children in the program got to experience wonderful memories and moments with her that will shape the rest of their lives. Her philosophy of simply being kind and caring human beings to one another will live on through them.”

Naidoo said every professor in the department adopted some type of teaching technique from Shareef’s extensive expertise in the early childhood education field and that she was an inspiration to everyone around her.

CCC President Mojdeh Mehdizadeh said she has been working with Shareef since her time at the District Office and has always seen her as someone she looked up to.

“When I reflect on professor Shareef, I am reminded of intelligence, her ability to always speak her mind in a respectful manner – even when expressing an opposing stance. Also, her incredibly big heart,” Mehdizadeh said. “I am grateful for the advice and counsel she’s provided me through the years.”

In the final days before her death, Shareef was working toward developing a demonstration model of “Anji Play” in San Francisco in hopes of pushing the educational philosophy further into the mainstream.

“She always went above and beyond for her students and will definitely be missed by many,” Giles said.

“Professor Shareef was a huge part of my education and I can’t wait to graduate to make her proud of what she helped build.”

Dr. Shareef was a passionate mother, professor, author and prominent leader in the early childhood education community. She is survived by three sons and a daughter.

Mehdizadeh said a scholarship fund in Dr. Shareef’s name is currently being planned.