One year ago this October, the Nashoba community faced the devastating loss of a driven and passionate individual. Ms. Colleen Ritzer, a math teacher at Danvers High School, lost her life in an alleged violent act at the hands of Philip Chism. Within the past year, Chism has been seen in court and is being tried as an adult. Here at Nashoba, the news tugged at more than heartstrings. No one was giving condolences because they were the ones receiving it. Not only was Ms. Ritzer a math teacher at Danvers High School, but two years prior she was a math teacher at Hale Middle School for the class of 2016’s eighth grade year.
Colleen did not only touch the lives of students and teachers from the Danvers High School, but also multiple students and teachers in the Stow portion of the Nashoba community. Ms. Farr, now a media center specialist at Nashoba, worked as a librarian at Hale Middle School in the 2011-2012 year that Ms. Ritzer also taught. Although they were not particularly close (considering math and librarians don’t typically work together), she stated, “She was absolutely the sweetest person I’ve ever met,” she continued, “She had a good relationship with most of her students…I think she genuinely wanted to help; she worked really hard [and] offered help for students who needed it.” Like the majority, Mrs. Farr could hardly believe that Ms. Ritzer had passed on. “I heard it on the news when I was on a NEASC trip, and I was just shocked. Who would kill somebody like that? She was the nicest person [and a] gifted teacher…I thought it could have been mistake.”
Mrs. Farr was not the only person affected by this tragedy. Ms. Ritzer held a tight bond with her students as well. “She was pretty awesome,” Natalie Wannamaker, one of Mrs. Ritzer’s students remembered, “People would get out of hand, but she was so nice, we didn’t push it too far and we did learn a lot of things. She was the most innocent person; I kinda felt like she was one of us because she was so young.” Collectively, students agreed that she was a great teacher and extremely easy to get along with. Kali Cook said, “Even though she taught the whole class, she would always make sure everyone had what they needed.” Cam Donahue agreed, “She was a great teacher.” “She was the teacher you could always go to,” Marcus Braudis added.
In remembrance of Ms. Ritzer, the “Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Scholarship Fund” was created by the Ritzer family to award scholarships to high school seniors who wish to pursue an education major in college. The purpose is to help future educators share their passion for teaching. The first scholarships were given in June and ranged from $1,500 to $2,500 for total of $12,000 given to Danvers high school seniors. The donations received from the “Step Up for Colleen” 5k held in the beginning of May helped fund the scholarships given.
It’s no doubt that Ms. Ritzer touched countless lives with her caring personality and admirable drive to teach. Someone worth bringing a community together. So one year later, let the communities of Nashoba and Danvers remember Colleen Ritzer; recall this amazing woman as someone who had so much to offer, yet was taken away from it all. And in Ms. Ritzer’s words herself, “No matter what happens in life, be good to people. Being good to people is a wonderful legacy to leave behind.”
Photo courtesy of http://colleenritzer5k.com/