Late teacher's lessons continue for Sells students
Ken Kaiser nominated Sells Middle School for a Stefanie's Champion Award for its support during his battle with pancreatic cancer. Kaiser died June 3, but coworkers and students say his lessons will live on.
Ken Kaiser hadn't been in front of a classroom in a while, but students still kept in touch with emails, texts, Facebook and visits.
About 500 students and staff gathered at Sells Middle School last week to remember the beloved 57-year-old teacher who died June 3.
Pancreatic cancer took Kaiser off the teaching roster, but not out of the hearts of students.
"The big thing for Ken, what was important to him was to make this horrible disease he had to fight a positive thing," said Rich Baird, Sells Middle School principal.
"He was able to do that by getting a good message out to the kids," Baird said.
"He talked to the kids a lot about character and how to carry themselves and how to carry themselves well. He inspired a lot of kids."
Kaiser was an eighth-grade science teacher and coach at Sells Middle School from 2006 to 2011, when he was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer.
When students found out, a 5K and other fundraisers were organized to raise money for pancreatic cancer research.
The school held a "12 Days of Kaiser" celebration where they focused on the things Kaiser taught, including the three C's of character, conversation and conduct.
Students bought purple T-shirts to support Kaiser and wore them on Thursdays. Sells teacher Andrea McCullough said hundreds of T-shirts were purchased and students are still asking for more.
"He was just an all-around good guy," she said. "I think the character of him was unique. He was firm, but at the same time they knew he was going to be there for them."
Pancreatic cancer has a five-year survival rate in the single digits, but McCullough said Kaiser was more worried about not being able to teach.
"Usually there's a fear of death," she said. "He had a fear of not being able to teach.
"This school year was hard for him, but he was teaching kids every day."
Last year Kaiser recognized Sells Middle School with a Stephanie Spielman Champion Award of Excellence for the support they exhibit-ed.
But for students, it was more about the support Kaiser showed them.
"I think the biggest thing was nothing was about Ken," Baird said. "When the kids were around Ken they knew it was all about them ... . That's why he got in this business."
Coaching and teaching were a passion for Kaiser, but so was his family. He is survived by a wife, son, daughter and two grandchildren.
"He loved his family. He was a family man," McCullough said. "He was such an incredible role model for kids."