by BOB SIEGEL
Principal, Valley View Elementary School
When does a school become more than a building, and transform into a loving/learning community? Pondering this is analogous to the question: When does a house become a home?
This past year the students, staff and parents at Valley View Elementary School came together like I’ve never witnessed before as an educator! Sometimes it takes a “cause” that forces young and old alike to think beyond themselves, and REALLY invest in someone else’s pain.
When a family member is in crisis, brothers and sisters, moms and dads are supposed to step up and support each other. Valley View Elementary School did that this year!
I met Claire as she was to begin kindergarten at Valley View five years ago. Her start to school was delayed due to a bout with cancer in her leg. I have watched this incredible child fight this disease like a heavyweight fighter! Ironically, Claire was the most quiet and unassuming child you’d ever meet.
During the 24-Hour Relay, Luanne Helsen, Claire Kowroski’s teacher, organized a “Team Claire” campaign, complete with t-shirts for anyone who wanted to participate. Walking around the track that Friday night with Claire’s dad and hundreds of kids, parents and staff—the Valley View Family—was truly uplifting!
Ironically, as I began writing this piece, news of Claire’s passing came our way. Incredibly so, the focus of this piece, however, does not change. I can tell you this: Claire taught us more in her nine years of life than I’ve ever learned from ANYONE in my 54 years on this Earth. Her courage was beyond inspirational— she was a witness to overcoming any pain and suffering that could be handed out, and taught us all how to live gracefully through hardship.
One wonders why a young child would be taken from our midst. Though our mortal minds cannot grasp some of these profound questions, I do believe that everything happens for a reason.
The entire Valley View Family has been blessed to have lived with Claire and mom Kathleen, dad Brad and little sister Izzy in our Valley View “home.”
Our school will never be the same without Claire in our midst, and yet her life has left a “print” on this place that will last forever.
Through the Ashes rises the Phoenix—the spirit of Claire lives on with the Valley View Family!