Friday, December 21, 2018

Never miss an opportunity: The extraordinary life of middle school teacher Lee LeRoy

Having fun with life was a part of what Lee LeRoy was about. Here she is on the right with fellow teachers Gwen Roberts, AJ Ruth and David Elder as they dressed up for 80s day.
By Lorraine Glowczak

“Beach~Bum,” was the title of the poem. “Little did she know that it was her last cup of coffee. She packed her school bag, grabbed her purse and headed out for the day. Her day went on as usual, spreading love, laughter, kindness and joy.”

This was the first stanza of a poetic tribute for Windham Middle School (WMS) Health Teacher, Lee LeRoy by fellow WMS teacher and friend, Emily Stokes. LeRoy passed away unexpectedly at her home in Portland on Thursday, December 13. She was 59 years old and could run circles of joy around the most enthusiastic among us.

Anyone who exits this world too soon leaves a deep chasm for those left behind, and Mrs. LeRoy was no exception. Or, perhaps she was a very special exception who was loved by many and whose lives were impacted by her presence in many positive ways.
“She would always stand at the end of the hallway every morning to greet the students with laughter and compassion,” stated AJ Ruth, WMS math and science teacher. “It was as if she was a bright and shining presence who greeted us every day, always taking the time to have a conversation during a busy day in the most sincere and kindhearted way.”

“And, she would stop an adult conversation, to listen to what a student had to say,” added long time friend and fellow WMS teacher, Gwen Roberts.

It seems her brilliant light that spread love, laughter, kindness and joy was LeRoy’s calling and purpose for which she was put on earth. She filled that mission in her roles as a friend, teacher, mentor, wife and mother. She lived her life’s calling with exuberance, never missing an opportunity to be a part of others’ lives – embracing everyone she knew.

 “Laughter, camaraderie and honest involvement with everyone is what Lee was about,” stated Roberts. “Lee was sort of a gatherer of people from every area of her life - because she valued people. Spending time and having fun with family and friends was very important to her.”

Some of LeRoy’s favorite ways to spend time with others was by going to the beach, golfing on Tuesdays, participating in competitive and fundraising events such as Tri for a Cure and having pool parties at her home. In every circumstance, LeRoy was always celebrating life.

Lee LeRoy
And flip flops. She loved flip flops. “She had every variety of L.L Bean flip flop and she wore a different pair every day as long as the season would let her. She also loved her clothes from Talbot. I don't know if Lee had more Talbot sweater sets or L.L. bean flip flops, but this I do know, she is the only person who could put them both together and make it work," Roberts said with the kind of laughter that gives a break from grief.

The only thing that may have been more important to LeRoy than flip flops was her dedication to health education. “Lee was devoted to teaching students how to make healthy choices,” stated WMS Assistant Principal, Kim McBride.

Last spring, LeRoy worked with colleagues Roberts, Ruth and Doug Elder to develop a creative, hands-on, and interactive project-based learning opportunity for the seventh and eighth grade students. The students spent months learning about the dangers of opiate use. They researched information to use for video public service announcements, newspaper articles, and science projects on the dangers of opiates and their effects on the brain. Students found inspiration in the movie “Back to the Future” and used it as an analogy, giving rise to the theme “Taking Back Maine’s Future.” Students learned that depending on the decisions you make in using opiates, your future can be healthy or tragic.

The final portion of the educational project ended by inviting the public to share what the students learned. According to the press release written by Laura Morris, director of Be The Influence, “The event was complete with an actual DeLorean car parked out front. Ushers escorted attendees into the Windham Middle School cafeteria where one future was set up in the dark, with trash around and featured students with their news articles on the tragic future ahead if the opioid crisis continues. The other future was well lit and featured students with news articles on how bright the future will be if we combat the opioid crisis in Maine.”

https://www.egcu.orgMorris was so impressed with the project that she submitted it to the national CADCA (Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America) organization. Out of the many national educational drug prevention projects submitted, “Taking Back Maine’s Future” was selected and will be featured at the 2019 National Leadership Forum in Washington D.C. in February. LeRoy and Ruth were going together to present the project.

“Last Wednesday, we were talking about our trip and the poster presentation,” Ruth reflected. “Lee and I were giddy and excited to be traveling together. But now, I will be traveling without her and will present the project alone – the project she initiated.”

Every person LeRoy touched will remember her in their own way and each taking from her, wisdom she left behind. But Vice-Principal McBride captured the greatest lessons she taught and reflect what so many found endearing about LeRoy: “Enjoy life to the fullest. Stay in touch with friends. Spend time with family. And, never miss an opportunity.”

And perhaps, Stokes portrayed the feeling experienced by so many toward the end of her heartfelt tribute to LeRoy, “The dismissal bell rang, and she watched hundreds flee the building at high speed rates. ‘See you tomorrow!’ came with a smile. Little did she know she had taught her last lesson and had said her last good-byes. Little did she know this would be her final walk down the hall.”

“Little did she know her dash would soon be followed by a number. She knew how to live her dash. She laughed, she celebrated, she loved, but most of all, she smiled.”

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