Community mourns death of teacher
A fundraiser for a Hillsboro middle school teacher who died last month has raised nearly $20,000 in less than a week.
Kim Ellsworth died unexpectedly Saturday, March 31.
Ellsworth was a special education teacher at South Meadows Middle School, but spent two decades in positions across the district. She worked at each of the district's four high schools and coached track, soccer and basketball in the district.
"She was a person that was important to a lot of our kids and families and the community," South Meadows Principal Mary Mendez told the Tribune on Monday. "She was kind and thoughtful and she was always looking out for the kids who were left out or struggling."
A $10,000 fundraiser on the website GoFundMe has so far collected more than $19,000 to help support the family.
The news of Ellsworth's death came suddenly, and district officials brought specially-trained grief counselors to South Meadows to work with students or faculty that needed to speak with someone about their time with Ellsworth.
"She was very much admired by the staff," Mendez said. "She was very interested in making sure every kid got a chance. She was just an awesome individual."
Students at South Meadows created a large mural in Ellsworth's memory which hangs in the hallway of the school. Students wrote memories of Ellsworth on the mural, and what they wished to say to her, Mendez said.
"I will miss Ms. Ellsworth dearly," one student wrote. "She would always ask me how my day was and had a smile on her face. She will be missed by everyone."
Students and staff also laid flowers and cards near her classroom in the school, Mendez said.
Laurie Jenkins, a health teacher at Liberty High School, worked with Ellsworth for several years. Ellsworth taught special education, coached basketball and was involved in Liberty Fit, an after-school club run by Jenkins, where students, staff and community members train together for the Helvetia half-marathon.
Ellsworth devoted a lot of time to the program, building relationships with the students and bettering both them and herself, physically and mentally, Jenkins said.
She said she'll remember her friend's positive attitude.
"(She had) that smile and the laughter, how could you not up your mood when you see the mood she exudes?" Jenkins said.
Jenkins described Ellsworth as "an amazing family woman and teacher" who had "so much to give in so many areas."
Ellsworth saw the value in developing meaningful relationships with everyone she met, Jenkins said, students and adults alike.
"She was patient, positive, and an encouraging example who would push (kids) to do better in a kind way that would get the best out of them," Jenkins said. "I could see kids want to do well because she wanted them to do well."
Ellsworth poured herself into her students and Jenkins said she was impressed by her ability to bring out the best in students who struggled inside and outside of the classroom.
Ellsworth's funeral was held Monday, April 9.
In addition to the online fundraiser, the family is encouraging people to donate to the Hillsboro Schools Foundation or the University of Portland in Ellsworth's name.
By Olivia Singer
Reporter, Forest Grove News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune
Follow Olivia at @oliviasingerr
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