Debbie Blaha’s life was an limitless quest to make issues higher, in keeping with her family and friends.
“She was the epitome of a life-long learner,” stated Tina Basler, former trainer and now principal at Plattin Main within the Jefferson R-7 College District, the place Mrs. Blaha taught for 33 years. “She by no means stopped searching for new methods to show, new methods to succeed in youngsters and switch her ardour for studying to them.”
Mrs. Blaha died Nov. 2 after a year-long battle with most cancers.
She grew up in Herculaneum and performed softball and volleyball at Herculaneum Excessive College. She bowled on a highschool group at Quonset Lanes in Crystal Metropolis, the place she met worker Larry Blaha, her husband of fifty years.
The 2 dated via Larry’s service within the Navy and had been married simply after her commencement in 1972.
“We lived in a trailer in Pevely, then moved it onto property we purchased in R-7,” Larry stated. “We constructed a home there and he or she labored for a number of years in St. Louis as a secretary. “
Their son, Scott, got here alongside in 1976 and was nonetheless younger when she determined to vary professions.
“She got here house sooner or later and stated, ‘There’s one thing higher for me on the market. I need to train.’” Larry stated. “We had a home and a child and a automotive fee, however what the heck.”
She earned an affiliate diploma at Jefferson School whereas being energetic in lots of campus actions, together with a stint as state president of the Phi Theta Kappa honor fraternity. She earned a bachelor’s diploma at Southeast Missouri State College, commuting every day to Cape Girardeau and listening to recorded lectures on the drive.
Mrs. Blaha was employed in 1988 to fill in for an R-7 trainer on maternity depart. She taught sixth grade for a yr, then switched to first grade.
Mrs. Blaha believed firmly in making studying enjoyable for her college students. She began an annual sleepover tour to the close by Festus/Crystal Metropolis Conservation Membership, the place youngsters slept in tents and skim to 1 one other round a campfire.
She wrote a grant for a program that put collectively e book luggage for college students to take a look at of the library, every containing a e book plus all of the supplies and provides to make crafts and tasks related to the e book’s subject.
“She began so many packages and tasks,” Larry stated. “She wished to indicate youngsters you don’t have to simply sit in a chair and skim; you might be snug wherever with a e book.”
The Blahas had been skillful swing dancers, and had been a well-recognized jitterbugging sight at college features.
“When Scott went to Herky (highschool), we bought concerned with Homecoming, doing decorations and lights and stuff,” Larry stated. “She was so artistic. It type of mushroomed, and we ended up doing homecomings and proms at Herky and at R-7 for about 15 years.
“Working with youngsters and households was our interest. We cherished it.”
Mrs. Blaha exercised her creativity in lots of crafts, particularly scrapbooking.
“She hand-crafted Christmas playing cards and greeting playing cards for in all probability near 30 years,” Larry stated. “And each one needed to have one thing that moved – it popped up, slid out, unfolded into one thing.”
After all, that type of perfection takes time.
“She drove me nuts as a result of she’d begin one thing at 10 p.m. and end at three o’clock within the morning,” Larry stated. “She stated her artistic move was higher when she was beneath the gun.”
Along with educating, Mrs. Blaha coached junior excessive sports activities.
“She by no means performed basketball, however ended up teaching when (directors) stated there could be no group in any other case,” Larry stated. “She took the monitor group from a few dozen youngsters to greater than 60, and he or she wouldn’t lower a one.”
The Blahas had been named grand marshals for the first-ever homecoming parade at Jefferson Excessive in 2009.
About 15 years in the past, Mrs. Blaha bought her grasp’s diploma and switched from educating first grade to working as an authorized Title 1 studying specialist. “She labored with six youngsters at a time for half-hour, all day, daily,” Larry stated.
What didn’t change was her relentless seek for higher methods to show.
“She would analysis, learn, go to conferences, take lessons, something to seek out some new technique to get throughout to a toddler,” Larry stated. “She would maintain at it till she may see of their eyes that they bought it.”
It wasn’t simply first-graders who benefited from Mrs. Blaha’s mentoring hand.
“She was such an exquisite sounding board,” Basler stated. “She would simply take heed to no matter you wanted to say, then ask questions that may let you get to your personal solutions.”
Kindergarten trainer Stacy Glass counted Mrs. Blaha as a mentor and a pal.
“She took time to hear, not simply to the little youngsters however to our highschool college students who got here in.
“She taught me methods to peel again the layers on a toddler to get to what they’re all about.”
Mrs. Blaha retired in June 2021. She had gathered a whole lot of books, and frolicked sorting them by studying stage and gifting them to college students.
“Her again was bothering her loads that summer season, and we thought it was from shifting these books round,” Larry stated.
In September, an MRI confirmed a tumor on her backbone, and a CT scan discovered it had already metastasized to her bones. She underwent radiation and chemical infusion therapies to gradual its progress.
“She didn’t count on to be cured,” Larry stated. “She simply wished to have extra time.”
Mrs. Blaha was hospitalized in mid-October, then got here house on hospice.
“A number of of her trainer associates stayed together with her virtually across the clock,” Larry stated. “We’ve got a great-granddaughter within the Philippines that she’d by no means met, and Debbie bought to learn one final e book to her over Face Time. That was actually particular.”
Mrs. Blaha was honored at a ceremony throughout Pink Week at R-7.
“She didn’t need that after they got here to her at first,” Larry stated. “She thought there is likely to be others who deserved it greater than she. Then they got here up with the thought of a scholarship, and that she may settle for. She was excited to suppose she would nonetheless be serving to youngsters, though she’s not right here any extra.”
Jefferson R-7 superintendent Clint Johnston characterised her as a “consummate skilled.”
“She knew nothing however serving others,” he stated. “She was a outstanding individual and I don’t suppose she actually understood the impression she had on hundreds of lives.”