Monday, February 15, 2010


I randomly picked up a paper off a restaurant table last night after a meal. The paper caught my attention since its one that I used to see in Fort Smith, where I began my career 10 years ago. A couple pages in and I see news that as a teacher you hate to see. A student from my first school had passed away just a few days ago due to complications from pneumonia. It's really quite distressing. I never taught Shantha but I knew her for her hard work on the student council that year, her friendly, outgoing personality, and her sharp mind. Her fellow students thought so too. She was voted valedictorian of her graduating class at Paul W Kaeser High School in 2001. She was only 26 and had just recently moved to St. Albert with her husband to take up a new job as a crime analyst/social planner for the local Family and Community Support Services.

I recall the grad night vividly in my mind. The grads lined up and a big line of people walked by to congratulate them, parents, staff and community members alike. I remember shaking Shantha's hand and telling her how proud I was to hear that she was on her way to study for a criminology degree at university. I knew a few criminology majors when I was doing my undergrads - not an easy program by any means.

I've worked in a number of isolated communities so I know first-hand how tough it can be for a kid to break out and make something of themselves. While Fort Smith certainly had more going for it than most places I've worked in, it still suffered (unfairly I should add) from a bad rap. Shantha was making a life for herself which makes the news of her passing a particularly bitter pill to swallow. To me, Shantha is a shining example of what you can accomplish with drive, determination, good humour and the support of a loving family behind her.

You were a great person Shantha. I never taught you but considered it a great privilege to have worked with you and experienced your smiling personality!

My sincere condolences go out to the Rasiah family.


Anonymous said...

This is Shantha's mom. Thanks for writing such nice things about Shantha. She will be dearly missed by her family and friends.