A short life, a big impact | AspenTimes.com

A short life, a big impact


We found a photo: Jesse and Haley Hoffman, Milo Stark, Garrett Green, and you, standing together in our back yard on a spring morning, when you all came to breakfast at our house. How honored we felt that such a gathering of fine, fun, and admirable young people thought enough of us still, to have breakfast with their former teachers. Carolyn has always said that one of the gifts of being a teacher is “getting to watch the kids you’ve taken through hard, interesting, fun, and often frustrating things, become these strong, capable, reliable people who matter in the world.”

Over these past days, we’ve marveled at how the “sweet, helpful, kind, and energetic” first grader in Carolyn’s class had become the inclusive, considerate, spontaneous, and venturesome senior boy in my Speech class. Teachers care deeply about all of their students, but some students connect themselves to a teacher’s life in a lasting way; you have done that to us, Sammy, as did your Dad, sister Jo Jo, and your Mom, Cathy.

We’ve witness the outpouring of tears, pained faces, and emotional conversation that has followed your passing and see well the breadth and depth of your impact on us all. I remember in school how a kind of joyful noise followed you around as you moved through the hallway or when you entered class. Your greeting, in its style and volume, fit the specific person you encountered; your warmth touched everyone; and your mountain and snow skills were no tool of boastfulness or arrogance — only pure evidence of your joy for life and your mastery of the places that reared you.

The weather of these last days matches, in tone, the sadness that has descended on our community, but the joyful noise in memories of you and the hint of sun that remains in our hearts at the thought of your smile, eases us just enough to let us go on. You and your family have our enduring love.

Carolyn Fields and Andy Popinchalk