Gregori High has posted a tribute to teacher Melinda Nielsen Sousa, who died March 7 after a long illness. A memorial scholarship fund for the north Modesto school has been established in the name of the English teacher, whom students say inspired them and changed their lives.
“You always knew that she was the one that you could talk to the most, and she was like the best teacher we could have, and Gregori is truly going to be missing her because she was one of those teachers who cared,” student Chelsey Largent says in the 40-minute video posted at www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkNLbcZk_So.
Through tears and sad pauses, 16 students tell stories of quirky humor and a knack for catching teens being themselves, accepting and liking them throughout. The woman who took stressed-out classes on walks, sang a special birthday song and occasionally stood on her head in class, died at age 38.
Students in the campus media class, the JagNewsNet, decided to make the video after hearing of her death, Principal Jeff Albritton said Thursday. Albritton also appears in the video.
“She believed in what she did. She believed in the power in education. She had a lot of fun, I know. I’ve heard about her antics in class and some of the stories she told. But I really believe it was the rigor that she taught at in her classroom,” Albritton says in the film. “Melinda was a great teacher. She was a great friend to many of us, and just a great soul, and we’re all going to miss her quite a bit.”
“You walk into her classroom – there was so much energy, it was such a lively classroom,” says Raquel Houllihan. “You would talk to her and you could tell she had life figured out, like she really knew how to live life to the fullest.”
An assignment to create a motto brought this reflection: “Her motto was to endure discomfort,” Mckenna Delgado says. “Her motto was super-subtle and really simple, but it spoke volumes to me because I knew she was just a fighter.”
Katherine Siciliani remembers her class with Sousa as transformative. “She slowly but surely got into every single person’s head that year. She made us learn about ourselves through what we wrote,” Siciliani says, breaking down in tears. “I think she changed every single person.”