SHERBURN - Martin County West staff and students are mourning the loss of teacher Kaylie Hogue following her sudden death.
Hogue taught three years at Martin County West, and last Wednesday had just finished cleaning and emptying out her classroom. That evening, she suffered a epileptic seizure and died. She was 24.
"She was an outstanding educator and an even better person," said high school principal David Traetow. "She meant so much to the staff and students at MCW."
Hogue taught upper-level English courses, including English 12, English 11, speech, art of film, theatre, writing, creative writing and cultural literature.
She also acted as the student council adviser, assistant speech coach and assistant drama director. But staff and students remember her best for the connections she made with students, no matter what their ability level.
"She had a way of drawing people to her," said Biny Claussen, staff adviser for the drama department. "She was my assistant coach for speech and for the plays ... She was creative, witty, intelligent and so beautiful inside and out. She always had an infectious smile and a - sometimes mischievous - sparkle in her eye. Her students admired, respected and loved her, because she loved and respected them. We are all better people having had Kaylie in our lives. She is going to be greatly missed by staff and students."
"Kaylie arrived during my second year of teaching," said art teacher Betsy Crawford. "I knew right away she would fit in, even though she was nervous. We became good friends; we pulled pranks that everyone took well. We were always laughing and sharing stories of what happened to us in the classroom. She was so easy-going ... You could vent to her and she listened to your problems."
Staff, parents and students were notified of Hogue's death last Thursday morning, with counselors, teachers, administrators, school board members and a representative from the ministerial association available throughout the day. Traetow said many students came to the school to spend time in her classroom and write some of their favorite memories on poster boards, as well as speak with the support personnel.
A memorial service was held for Hogue in her hometown of Sleepy Eye on Monday. According to Traetow, the wake and funeral were attended by the majority of staff from throughout the district, with numerous current and former students attending. There was a caravan and car pool that left for the funeral from the high school parking lot the day of the funeral.
Traetow was asked to give one of the eulogies at the funeral.
"I still remember the first day of her first year at MCW," he recalled in it. "She was extremely nervous, scared, and I wasn't really sure what to expect from this first-year teacher. Kaylie was a perfectionist when it came to her teaching so she had prepared for days trying to make sure her first one went well. Needless to say, it was quite obvious from the start she had chosen the right career path. The effect she has had on our students has been incredible. Students loved her because of her genuine care and concern for their well-being. No matter what their ability level, they always felt like equals in her room and could just be themselves. They didn't have to worry about outside pressures and stereotypes and felt safe. She treated everyone and every opportunity with dignity and respect. Her students loved her because she loved them. She always found the right words to say, no matter what the situation."
Traetow also noted that Hogue brought the staff the same positivity and caring that she gave her students.
"Kaylie also brought joy into the hearts of her colleagues with her humor and quick wit," he said. "She also helped us realize that when your staff feels like a family, your students do too. Kaylie was one of the kindest and most considerate people I have ever known. She had a presence about her that would put you at ease no matter how stressful the situation. Her positive energy was infectious and she could light up a room with her smile."
Support for those grieving continues to be available to those in need through the high school.
A Kaylie Hogue Memorial Scholarship Fund is also being organized. Anyone wishing to contribute can send donations to Martin County West High School in her name.