Today the community will gather to honor the life of a beloved teacher. Michelle Khatewoda was a well-loved teacher, who died this past week at age 45. She leaves behind a grieving family, friends, colleagues and students. Known as Mrs. K to her students, she taught at Columbus Elementary School for 18 years. My daughter Katelyn had Mrs. K for her First Grade.
You never forget your First Grade teacher. It is one of those transition points in life, from pre-school or part-time kindergarten, to full-time student. It is often an emotional time and blessed are the students and parents to have a teacher who understands how difficult this transition can be. Mrs. K was such a teacher.
I remember volunteering in her classroom and admiring her compassionate ability to help students adjust to a daylong classroom routine. Michelle took a diverse mix of children, with a wide range of abilities and graced each with a sense that they were valued and capable of meeting the essential challenges of reading, writing and getting along with others.
Over the course of the year, I watched as my daughter and the other children grew in self-confidence and in community. Such an outcome is the result of a talented teacher. We parents knew that Michelle’s love of children came from a deep place within her, starting with her love for her own two daughters.
You never forget your First Grade teacher. Now my daughter is in her second year of college in New York. I have no doubt that the essential start that Mrs. K provided for my daughter and hundreds of other students, helped lay that essential foundation upon which to build their lives. Surely, this is the legacy of every great teacher.
Garrison Keillor, author and host of a Prairie Home Companion, writes: “The kindness we offer to a child, is never forgotten.” This is true. The kindness, the wisdom, the joyful spirit that marked Mrs. K’s life will never be forgotten. Her life’s work lives on in her daughters and family, in her colleagues and especially in her students. Always, a teacher’s work lives on in the lives she touched. Thank God for teachers. Thank God, for Mrs. K.