Teachers, students, family remember Esko middle school teacher Jess Blake
“And we all had to do the snow dance with her to make sure that school would get canceled the next day,” added his classmate Carter Northey, 18.
Johnson and Northey had Jess Blake as their social studies teacher when they were in seventh and eighth grade. Their class was the last at Esko to have the full Jess Blake experience, principal Greg Hexum said, before she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer in September 2014.
A dancer and world traveler as well as a teacher, Jessica Kathleen Blake died on Feb. 22 at age 42.
Friends and family say Blake embodied a zest for living.
“In that little package … she just packed a wallop,” said Lisa McKhann, who met Blake through dance 18 years ago and became a close friend. “She was barely 5 feet tall, but she adventured all over the world in her summer breaks … and she brought just a furious amount of energy into her classroom.
“She didn’t have to be performing on stage to be living large.”
Blake’s first passion was for her middle school-aged students, said her parents, Rick and Kathleen Blake of Grand Rapids. Even while fighting cancer, she went back to the classroom when she could, most recently from September 2016 through January 2017.
“She said she was so excited to be back at school because the kids gave her purpose and they gave her energy,” Kathleen Blake said. “She loved their goofiness and their creativity.”
Glioblastoma multiforme, which Jess Blake was diagnosed with shortly after collapsing at school on Sept. 10, 2014, is the same form of brain tumor that afflicts Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. It’s the cancer that claimed the life of Beau Biden, son of the former vice president; and of Sen. Edward Kennedy