Tigard teachers, students to honor life, legacy of teacher
Jennifer Kelsey touched the lives of hundreds of students during her tenure at Metzger Elementary School in Tigard, and soon, a memorial in her honor will do the same.
The start of the new school year was bittersweet for Metzger Elementary students and staff, as they learned of Kelsey's death just a few days after the first day back.
Kesley, 57, taught second grade at Metzger last year and had previously taught fourth-graders. She was also an English language learner specialist.
Peers say Kelsey formed lasting bonds with students she taught during her 15-year tenure with the Tigard-Tualatin School District.
"When we were next to each other, I marveled at all her former students who visited her on a regular basis — more than any colleague I have ever worked with," Megan Risher, a former Metzger teacher who worked with Kelsey for over a decade, said Tuesday, Sept. 17. She described her friend and colleague as "passionate, caring, and loyal to her friends and students."
Kelsey died in early September, of a heart attack after battling cancer, district officials said in a letter to families and colleagues. She had taken off work in spring of the previous year to address health issues and made the decision not to return to teaching this year.
During her lifelong career as an educator, Kelsey was also active in the Tigard Tualatin Education Association, holding numerous roles and serving on several committees to advocate for teachers, including a role as secretary of TTEA.
"She was instrumental as a TTEA leader on so many different issues that it would be impossible to name them all," Scott Herron, TTEA president, stated in a message to members. "Even last year, with her health in decline, she still found the time to advocate for the issues that impacted the lives of her students and fellow educators. … I can tell you from first-hand experience that TTEA is a better union and TTSD is a better district because of her involvement."
Peers say she was in the process of aggressive cancer treatment trials.
"It was still surprising for everyone, because not many folks knew she was sick and she still worked a lot," Jessica Swindle, principal at Metzger, noted Monday, Sept. 16. "She was really passionate about after school programming. She was passionate about STEM, and she loved learning the Spanish language. She loved traveling abroad to learn about other cultures and teach kids about those cultures to make them feel included."
To honor Kelsey and celebrate her life, teachers, students, and friends are gathering at Metzger Elementary from noon to 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 6, for a public memorial service.
Swindle said a tree will be planted at the school in the late teacher's memory, and students will paint rocks to remember Kelsey and place them around the tree.
Additionally, to commemorate Kelsey and honor her legacy as an educator, TTEA will rename a scholarship for seniors pursuing a career in education as the Jennifer Kelsey Senior Scholarship.
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