Middle Park teacher touched many lives during short tenure
December 3, 2007
Hundreds of students, teachers, family members and friends came to pay their respects yesterday at the memorial service for Amy Gallagher, an English teacher at Middle Park High School.
“Amy always said she didn’t want a memorial service because she was afraid no one would come and she’d look like a total dork,” joked Gallagher’s best friend, Julie, during a heartfelt speech in front of the high school auditorium.
Obviously, that wasn’t the case, she added, referring to the many faces in the crowd.
The stage behind Julie was lined with flowers, a guitar, a Led Zeppelin poster and photos of Gallagher. A poster read: In Loving Memory of Amy Gallagher, and it was filled with signatures and phrases, including “Fantastic Coach. “Excellent Teacher. “A Friend.”
Gallagher was 26 years old when she died Wednesday, Nov. 28, after a collision on Highway 9 near the border of Grand and Summit counties. She was on her way to work in Granby at roughly 7 a.m. when her car slid on the ice into the opposite lane, striking a Ford Bronco. Gallagher died from injuries a couple hours later at the Summit Medical Center.
In Gallagher’s short career with the East Grand School District, she was able to touch many lives. As people in the audience wiped away tears, they laughed at the memories and stories others shared.
“Amy was one of the brightest rays of sunshine this place has ever been blessed with,” said a close friend. “She could warm the whole day with that smile.”
Some of Gallagher’s students ” to whom she was known as ‘Ms. G’ ” told the audience point-blank that if it weren’t for Gallagher, they would have dropped out of school.
“She never judged me,” said a student nicknamed ‘Woods.’
“The only reason I stayed in school is because of her class,” said another.
One parent recalled the story of her son, who had Gallagher as his English teacher.
“My son speaks fluent redneck,” she said jokingly, to a room of people that needed to laugh. “I was at a parent-teacher conference, and when it was my turn to speak with Amy, I told her, ‘We have a problem here.'”
Gallagher looked up the student’s name and told the mother her son had an ‘A’ in English.
“I said ‘Yes, I understand that. He’s never had an ‘A’ in English,” the parent said, smiling at the way Gallagher had touched her son’s life.
Many individuals stood at the microphone to remember Gallagher ” some through tears, and some through laughter. Gallagher’s parents sat in the front of the room, with Gallagher’s dog, who whined and panted. Gallagher’s boyfriend, Nate, whom her friends often referred to during their speeches, sat silently, choking back tears but also smiling at the many stories.
Superintendent Robb Rankin told the crowd that Gallagher was a great teacher, but when the school hired her, he realized she wasn’t a highly qualified English teacher, he said; she had only been a teacher for two full years prior to her career with the East Grand School District.
But Gallagher knew how to connect with people, Rankin pointed out.
“It’s that connection that truly makes a difference,” he said.
The memorial segue to a slideshow, depicting photos of a muscular, small-framed Gallagher living her life to the fullest, as her friends had described. She rock-climbed, hiked, went horseback riding ” she practiced target shooting and rode rails at the terrain park. She went big and was fearless, one student said. She had a passion for everything, said another.
Wes Bernstein, who coached the school’s cross-country team along with Gallagher, the team’s assistant coach, said he met her at the beginning of the school year. Bernstein and Gallagher became friends almost instantly.
“It’s amazing that in such a short amount of time, she had the impact that she did. Seeing everyone out here (today) is a huge statement,” Bernstein said. “For an English teacher, it’s something that’s larger than words.”
– To reach Stephanie Miller, call (970) 887-3334, ext. 19601 or e-mail email@example.com.