Ojai community mourns loss of beloved teacher Sheri Usher

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Screenshot from a "Once Upon a Watershed" video

Matilija Middle School teacher Sheri Usher teaches students about the Ojai oak community in a “Once Upon a Watershed” video.


Marianne Ratcliff, Ojai Valley News editor

The community is mourning the loss of beloved Matilija Middle School teacher Sheri Usher, who passed away Dec. 22 in a traffic accident traveling home from the Bay Area.

Mrs. Usher, 56, most recently taught social studies, science and Makerspace at Matilija Middle School. A “Once Upon a Watershed” video of Mrs. Usher teaching about the Ojai oak community can be viewed at:

Cassandra Wallace of Ojai, who organized a GoFundme page ( for Mrs. Usher, wrote on the site:

“On December 22, 2021, the world lost a bright light. Sheri Usher was a beautiful free-spirited soul who was taken from us much too soon in a tragic car accident. She was a wife, mother, daughter, sister, beloved friend, longtime educator, and an activist in her own right.

“Sheri had a special gift for bringing people together, and her kindness and warmth came so naturally they appeared effortless.

“She was always ready to go on any adventure, whether it be in the mountains, the desert or at the beach, and she was happiest with her dogs at her heels.

“We are all devastated by this unthinkable loss and incapable of imagining life without her. This GoFundMe has been established for Sheri’s husband and two children to help cover current expenses resulting from this unexpected tragedy and to help provide financial security for her family going forward. Any support you are able to provide would be greatly appreciated.”

Ojai Unified School District Superintendent Tiffany Morse sent a message to the school district community on Dec. 27:

"It is with great sadness that I share that Sheri Usher, a beloved colleague, and Matilija teacher, passed away last week in an automobile accident while traveling home from the Bay Area. We understand this news is incredibly difficult to hear and causes great pain to our community.

“We are in communication with the family and out of respect for their wishes, we waited until after the Christmas holiday to share this news. We will have counselors available when we return from break; however, if your child needs support now, you will find a list of Ventura County mental health resources at:

“An educator for over 25 years, Sheri worked with our students in Ojai Unified beginning in 2014 and worked for Ojai Valley School for 19 years prior to coming next door to Matilija. Sheri was an incredible advocate for equity and made a powerful impact on students and staff alike while bringing joy to the classroom. We are grateful for her commitment to our students, families, and community.

"The family is asking for privacy at this time. We will have opportunities for students and staff to share their memories of Ms. Usher the week after break.  

"It has been said that a close community such as ours feels loss more deeply, and we certainly feel that now."

Matilija Middle School Principal Kelley Stone shared several memories and moments with Mrs. Usher as well. 

“Some of our faculty and staff met today at Matilija,” Stone told the Ojai Valley News on Dec. 27. “Many of us shared stories of our time with Sheri and how we want to carry on her legacy of love. 

“On the first day of school this year, Sheri came to my office with a bunch of sage for me. It was a simple gesture of kindness, a wish for wisdom as we began a school year that was sure to be challenging for all of us; it was quintessentially Sheri. 

“Sheri approached everything she did by first thinking of others and was a champion of the underserved and underrepresented in our community. Our collective hearts at Matilija are broken by her loss. 

“Sheri loved her family and her students with every fiber of her being, and we are all better for knowing her and having her at Matilija. She reminded us daily that our real job as educators is to love kids, and that is exactly what we intend to do.” 

Mrs. Usher’s vehicle was one of four involved in a crash on southbound I-880 in the Northern California city of Newark, just north of the Stevenson Boulevard exit, on Dec. 22, at about 11:10 a.m.

The California Highway Patrol reported that Mrs. Usher was driving a Subaru Forrester, which was hit from behind by a Honda Civic.

The collision caused the Subaru to swerve right, hitting a Lexus SUV, then veered into the far left lane, where it was struck by a van.

Mrs. Usher died at the scene and a passenger in her car was hospitalized, and was expected to survive. No other people involved in the crash were injured, according to the CHP.

It reported that it has not determined why the Honda Civic collided with the Subaru.