The foreign language department at West Springfield High School is short one teacher and one department this week.
In an e-mail sent to parents and community members last week, West Springfield principal David Smith announced that longtime Latin teacher Kathy Jarvis had lost her 16-year battle with breast cancer.
“She’s the kind of teacher that, when a person is 85 years old and they think about the great teachers and major influences in their life, she’s the kind of teacher they think about,” Smith said.
Jarvis started teaching at West Springfield in 1988 after teaching at Irving Middle School, Smith said. She always taught Latin as a one-woman department, becoming close with the close-knit, small group of students who chose to learn Latin instead of the more popular French, Spanish or German.
It was her love of students and young people, along with a love of Latin, that kept Jarvis teaching during her illness, Smith said.
“Kathy could relate Latin to anything going on,” he said. “She was incredibly dedicated … I’d love to have a building full of teachers like her.”
Patricia Hans, assistant principal at West Springfield and Jarvis’ direct supervisor, said Jarvis taught her how to be strong and stay positive, no matter what challenges she faced.
“Kathy was so strong and would not let her cancer stop her,” Hans said in an e-mail. “She was phenomenal in the classroom and made learning fun.”
The friendship shared with Jarvis is what Hans said she’ll miss the most.
“She had a way of quietly connecting with you and I will very much miss our personal conversations,” Hans said.
Even when Jarvis was sick, Hans said she was always smiling.
“Kathy was just such a special lady and a gifted educator,” Hans said. “I will miss her.”
THAT SENTIMENT is shared by Sharon Bailey, a sign language teacher at West Springfield.
Bailey and Jarvis worked together for nine and a half years, Bailey said. In that time, Jarvis helped Bailey set up her first Web site, which Bailey said was a stressful time.
“This really tested our friendship. We spent hours working on it and when we put it up, I think she was prouder than I was,” Bailey said. “She loved teaching, even to me. She had that confidence builder thing going on and it showed.”
In Jarvis’ room, her love of angels as evident as she had statues all around.
“She surrounded herself with them on a lanyard she wore daily to school,” Bailey said. “She could tell you what each one was and a story besides. She was a woman of faith and believed in prayers.”
Bailey said it was her strong faith that helped Jarvis when her battle seemed insurmountable.
“Kathy loved to take care of you when you thought you were taking care of her,” she said. “She seemed to know when we had bad days and was there to give us a hug or kind word.”
Bailey shared, in an e-mail, a Latin phrase that she believed perfectly captured her relationship with Jarvis.
She wrote: ‘Vulgareamic nomen, se rar est fides,’ which translates to ‘The word friend is common, the fact is rare.’
“Kathy was mine,” Bailey said. “I will miss her greatly.”
Sally Feldner, who works in the main office at West Springfield, arrived at the school the same time Jarvis began teaching there.
"I admire her for the way she valiantly battled her cancer," Feldner said. "Sixteen years is a long time. She worked right up until a few weeks ago. Her students meant everything to her, she just wanted to be there for them."
Feldner said Jarvis was "a real model of bravery and determination."
AS CHAIR OF the foreign language department at West Springfield, Michelle Plummer said she'd miss Jarvis' sense of humor and professionalism.
"Kathy was always a very creative teacher. Her students were always chanting, singing, laughing and loving learning Latin," Plummer said.
Jarvis also had a passion for quilting and incorporated that into her classroom by having her students design their own quilts based on Roman mosaics and patterns.
"I have never met a more determined and dedicated person in my life," Plummer said. "She would come to school weak and pale but as soon as that bell rang, she would perk up and teach."
In honor of Jarvis, the Latin class she taught made a banner with her name on it that the students carried during halftime of the West Springfield Homecoming game last Friday.
Jarvis is survived by her husband, Maj. Allen J. Jarvis, III, (Ret.), two sons, Allen J. Jarvis IV and his wife, Lisa; Joel D. Jarvis and his wife, Christine; a daughter, Julie V. Graves and her husband, John; her mother, Lola J. DiSciullo; brother David DiSciullo; sister Lisa Connolly; grandchildren Aaron, Andrew, Kallen and Kaitlyn.
A memorial service is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 27 beginning at 7 p.m. at Everly Funeral Home, 10565 Main St., Fairfax, which will be preceded by a reception. She will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery on Thursday, Nov. 9 at 10 a.m.
At the request of Jarvis’ family, a memorial fund has been established to support a Latin student, something she set up before she died. Contributions can be sent to the school, marked “WSHS-Kathy Jarvis Memorial Scholarship,” to the school’s finance office.