Words of thanks and love are written on a bulletin board that hangs outside room 225 at Everett Middle School. The messages are for Cassandra Roberts, beloved language arts teacher for more than 20 years, who died only a few days before the first day of school. She was 45 years old.
There will be a luncheon for Roberts in the school courtyard at 12:30 p.m., today. The faculty and staff will have the chance to say a few words about her and they will also plant a peach tree in honor of her Georgia roots, where she is buried.
Roberts was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago, and for the past three years she has been on medical leave, volunteering at the school whenever she could. People at the school knew her by her favorite phrase, “I will believe in every child.”
Before joining the faculty in 1997, Roberts was working in an office by day and attending school at night. “She used to work with my aunt, over by Candlestick,” said Ruben Urbina, a staff member at Everett Middle School, “but she wanted to be a teacher.”
Urbina said he and Roberts were close – they clicked instantly. “Right away I could tell she was a compassionate person,” he said.
While at Everett, Roberts organized contestants for an orator event held every year at Thurgood Marshall, where they would recite original or well-known stories or speeches.
Roberts strongly believed in the right to vote, and held a mock election every year to emphasize its importance to her students. She and Urbina were on the founding committee for Peace Day, when the curriculum is centered on themes of peace and cooperative learning.
“We were just meant to be,” he said.
Some 20 percent of Everett students are African American, so Roberts, one of only two black teachers at the school, was very important, Urbina said.
Roberts was the kind of inspirational educator you remember for a lifetime, Everett’s principal, Richard Curci, said at a meeting of the Board of Education. She “was a master teacher with a huge heart, and never gave up on any child,” he said. She inspired her students to go on to college and become lifelong learners.
Everett is an underperforming school, but that didn’t stop Roberts from believing in her kids, Urbina said. “Everett was her heart.”
The faculty has collected $400 to send to Roberts’ family in Georgia, Curci said.
Friends and family can visit the Augusta Chronicle to sign the online guestbook.