Teacher created ‘a place of freedom of ideas’
Vail, CO Colorado
EAGLE ” Chris Cessna made the long school day easier for a lot of teens at Eagle Valley High School.
“When she asked you how you were doing, she really wanted to know,” senior Molly Crocker said. “It makes you want to be at school. It makes a huge difference if you know your teachers care how you are.”
Student and teachers will remember Cessna, an English teacher who died April 15 after a battle with cancer, as someone who had a gift for inspiring kids and making them feel welcome at school.
“Mrs. Cessna’s classes were always an open, supportive place ” a place of freedom of ideas,” said senior Gary Warfield in a letter. “Yet all of it was only a reflection of the person that she was ” a reflection of the wonderful soul within her.”
Cessna liked using the classroom as a “springboard into the outside world,” said English teacher Cathy Casper.
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“She wanted to expose her students to all that she could, she saw things globally,” Casper said. “It had to do with her writing background.”
Cessna was a journalist in the Vail Valley and started teaching as a second career, principal Mark Strakbein said.
She brought that love of writing into her classrooms and even taught a journalism course. “She had thoughts of writing fiction for young adults ” she saw herself doing that as a career,” Casper said.
Senior Josh Bortz said her classes were very “free flowing,” which made the day a lot more fun.
Even when Cessna struggled with her illness, she made jokes about it and smiled.
“The last day I saw her in class, she was up front by the projector, grabbing at her knee, complaining about the pain, but she was joking about it and had a big smile on her face,” Bortz said. “She had a big influence on hundreds of kids lives.”
Many struggling students easily connected with Cessna, who also taught English Language Learner classes, Strakbein said.
“She had a way of establishing good relationships with some of our at-risk kids, kids who need special bonding with,” Casper said. “I saw that as her gift.”
You could count on Cessna to do anything, and that was a constant comfort to the high school staff. “If you needed someone to sponsor the activity, to take tickets at a game, cover your lunch duty, she was there ” anything to help the cause,” Strakbein said.
She was involved behind the scenes in school musicals and helped kids looking for a second chance in summer school, Strakbein said.
To the teachers, she was also a great friend, someone who livened the hallways between classes. They met once a month in an after-school book club that Cessna loved.
“Her favorite books were Wallace Stegner’s ‘Angle of Repose’ and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s ‘A Hundred Years of Solitude,'” Casper said. “We brought the book club to her in her hospital room during the last month of her life.”
Students and teachers have been working the past week to give back to Cessna’s family. Crocker said the senior class will give about $2,500 to her son’s college fund, and about $1,200 more was raised from the school.
“The entire high school is missing her presence,” Crocker said.
Staff writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eagle Valley High School teacher and former Eagle Valley Enterprise reporter Christine Elizabeth Cessna died April 15 at the Heritage Park Center in Carbondale following a battle with cancer. She was 49.
She was born on Aug. 8, 1957 in Baltimore. She attended John Carroll High School in Bel Air, Md., Towson State University in Towson, Md. and the University of Colorado. She moved to Colorado in 1982 and worked for Buckley Air Force Base as a grant writer. She joined the Enterprise staff in the late 1980s.
She married Harry Cessna in 1990 at the Deep Creek Overlook on the Flat Tops. Her son, Harry Alexander Cessna, was born May 20, 1995.
She joined the staff at Eagle Valley High School after leaving the newspaper. She taught English, journalism and mythology and was the school newspaper advisor. She was working toward her master’s degree.
Students say she was an excellent communicator and her efforts and dedication to teaching made a significant impact on student writing.
She is survived by her husband and son, who live in Gypsum; her mother, Thelma Herbert of Bel Air, Md.; sisters Catherine Maines of Bel Air, Md., and Patricia Loughran of Kensington, Md.; nieces Maureen Loughran of Silver Spring, Md., Clare Loughran of Washington D.C., and Mary Kathleen Loughran of Bethesda, Md.; and nephew Matthew Loughran of Camden, N.J.
She was preceded in death by her father, Kenneth J. Herbert.
A celebration of Cessna’s life will be held at the Brush Creek Pavilion at 2 p.m. Sunday, A pot luck will follow the service.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to:
Shaw Cancer Center in Edwards or Valley View Hospital Foundation for Cancer, PO Box 1970, Glenwood Springs, CO 81602 or Harry Cessna College Fund at U.S. Bank in Eagle.