Honor Trotter was a “kind teacher,” a “great mentor” and an “amazing woman.”
She died Monday at age 59 from the cancer that forced her early retirement from her job as a kindergarten teacher at Saratoga Elementary School after a 33-year career.
Thursday morning, under an overcast sky, students and teachers gathered behind the school on what would have been her 60th birthday to pay tribute to the woman they say always made learning fun.
Clad in yellow, Trotter’s favorite color, a group of her former students readied themselves to send 60 balloons — yellow, of course — into the purple-gray sky.
One of them was Chloee Hansen, a sixth grader, who remembers the time a mouse ran into the classroom, frightening her and her classmates until Trotter told them to think of the rodent as Mickey or Minnie Mouse.
Another was Luke Bardash, an eighth grader who said Trotter made learning fun.
“She always made it a good time,” Bardash said. “She always made it interesting.”
Co-workers said they, too, learned from Trotter; that as a colleague and mentor, Trotter was fast, warm company.
Tiffany Beeler, a kindergarten teacher at Saratoga, said she and Trotter would get together on Sundays and during summers to plan lessons for three to four hours at a time.
“She was the best mentor anyone could ask for,” Beeler said. “She always made learning fun. And not just for the kids.”
Another kindergarten teacher, Adam Peterson, remembered the bond he and Trotter shared over music.
He writes songs, and would regularly use Trotter as his sounding board. Once, they even sang together in the school talent show.
“I’ll always remember that,” Peterson said.
Superintendent Kathy Perry said Trotter was certified to teach every subject but math, and started the school’s now-favorite Hawaii unit about 20 years ago.
The day Trotter died, Perry said, was the day this year’s kindergarten students “arrived” in Hawaii. On Thursday, beach party day, many of the children wore leis.
“Her spirit will live in this school forever,” Perry said. “She was an amazing woman.”
“She was everything you’d want a teacher to be,” added Principal Joe Zweeres. “She lived to be a teacher.”
That much is evident in the emotion her death stirred in her former students.
Delaney Eber, an eighth grader, had Trotter for reading.
“She was really kind,” Eber said, a statement echoed by first grader Charlie Wright, who had Trotter last year.
“She was a nice teacher,” he said.
Out on the school’s lawn, all were gathered in a huge oval, Trotter’s students in the middle — the whole thing a sea of yellow.
Neil Trotter, Honor’s husband, was there.
“This just shows the love she gave here is given back,” he said.
Everyone sang “Happy Birthday” to Mrs. Trotter.
Then, it was time to release the balloons.
The former students held the balloons at arm’s length, counted three and let go.
The 60 yellow balloons rose up into the dark-clouded sky, soaring further and further away over the roof of the school until they were gone.