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Students and staff at Walnut Grove High School share their memories of Mrs. Ashley Callahan after her sudden passing on Tuesday, August 8th, 2023.
by VIRIDIAN Staff
A science teacher at WGHS for seven years, Ashley Callahan made a “forever” mark on students and staff, and the shock of her passing has left a hole in many hearts.
In those seven years, she influenced over 1500 student lives in her classes, clubs, and activities through her instructional creativity and infectious positivity and humor. To say that she was a well-liked and popular staff member is an understatement. It would be more appropriate to say that her presence and influence will linger here because of the passion she instilled into her students and the energy she invested in her coworkers.
Her memorial service and family visitation were held at WGHS on Sunday, August 13, 2023. And such was the outpouring of support from the community that the line of people waiting to greet and commiserate with the family during the visitation wrapped up and down the halls of the school
Ashley Callahan never had an ex-student- from the moment they were listed on her roster, they became a permanent part of her world. Several recent graduates, including Bella Dellulo, delivered beautiful remembrances at her memorial service, and more than a few current WGHS students intimated that “You could tell Mrs. Callahan really cared about her students.” Isabella Hayes and Kayla Rosser said that Mrs. Callahan’s class was always a fun environment, where every student felt like their education was personally tailored to them. Bailey Butler reminisced, “In Mrs. Callahan's class it was very clear that she cared a lot about our education. She was able to joke around and get one-on one with many students.” And Tucker Gray summed up Mrs. Callahan’s value to the school as a whole, “It was like she was best friends with [everyone] around her. The whole class was just different.”
Below are messages from various staff members at Walnut Grove:
April Amos: In loving memory of Ashley Callahan, we remember a remarkable soul whose presence illuminated the Science department with an unmatched radiance. Ashley's creativity was a force to be reckoned with, breathing life into every lesson, experiment, and project she undertook. Her classroom was a haven of inspiration, where her imaginative approach to teaching transformed the most complex scientific concepts into captivating journeys of discovery. Beyond her ingenious methods, it was her infectious humor that left an indelible mark on all fortunate enough to cross her path. With a wit that could brighten the cloudiest days, Ashley had an extraordinary gift for turning even the most mundane moments into uproarious laughter.
Her unwavering passion for Science was nothing short of awe-inspiring. Ashley's eyes would light up as she delved into the intricacies of the universe, imparting her deep love for the subject to her eager students. But it was her genuine care and support that truly set her apart. In her nurturing guidance, students found not just an educator, but a steadfast mentor who believed in their potential. Ashley's dedication to their growth went beyond the classroom, as she effortlessly fostered an environment where learning was a joyous endeavor. Her legacy lives on as a beacon of loveliness, forever intertwined with the heart of the Science department she so profoundly enriched.
Jane Watson: My friend, Ashley had the most beautiful soul and still does! Even though her body is gone, I believe that her soul is still very much alive. She was my first friend when I came to Walnut Grove. She was so kind, smart, funny, and beautiful. She always listened and included me to feel accepted when I first came to Walnut Grove. She was my mentor and my friend. She introduced me to teaching Oceanography, which I love teaching now. She showed me how to be a great teacher ,and she helped me grow into who I am today. I owe so much to her. Our times together, whether it was on field trips with students, talking at school, or meeting up after work will always be treasured. She was my work bestie, and even though I knew it was the best that she left WGHS, it still crushed me. I was so happy for her , but I missed her and her presence in the halls. She was always a person to make you laugh when you had a bad or even a good day. She was always a practical jokester. I have so many memories of her pulling pranks on others teachers and students. I always felt like she was like a soul sister to me. We both had several things in common and even shared the same wedding anniversary date. We both would always send each other well wishes on that day and it felt like we were connected in some way. She always listened, gave advice, and always gave a hug when I saw her. My heart hurts so much that she is gone. I feel like there is a hole there that she once filled with her bright light. I pray God to watch over her husband and boys as well as her family. I know she loved them with her whole being. Rest in Peace dear friend. I’m going to miss you something fierce. I love you.
Mitch Alligood: When I think of Ashley, I think of laughter and joy. She was the epitome of what a friend should be- kind, supportive, and not afraid to hold you accountable. She was a model teacher. She loved all of her roles- mother, wife, and educator. As the song says, because we knew her, we have been changed for good. I'll miss her.
Kevin Smith: I was blessed to work with Ashley for only one year. But in that year, she helped me in practical ways more times than I can count. I was fortunate that my classroom was across from hers. If I needed assistance with figuring out my whiteboard or why my computers were doing what they were doing, she would drop what she was doing to help me, always with a smile. If I needed to make a restroom run in the middle of one of my classes and needed someone to watch my class, and she was available, she was there for me no matter what she was doing at the time. At the Christmas party that year, I introduced her to my wife and told my wife in front of her that Ashley had helped me so much. In "Ashley" fashion, she said "I feel like I haven't done that much." When she left Walnut Grove, her absence was deeply felt but I know it is nothing compared to the empty canyon she now leaves behind. She will be greatly missed by all those whose lives she touched and I am one of many in that number.
Dorota Hang: Ashley has touched everyone who had the privilege to know her. As the department chair made sure you had all she can give to accommodate every situation. As a teacher, incredible and inspiring educator loved by all students who were blessed to have her as a teacher. As a person, always carrying, loving, funny, and still attentive to our needs. What a beautiful force she was! I will miss my little sister.
Thomas Thrailkill: Mrs. Callahan was an exceptional educator and friend. She was one of those special individuals who seemed to have a sense for what was needed in any given situation, whether it was working with her students to help them meet their goals or collaborating with her peers to provide support.
I fondly remember observing one lesson in an oceanography class when Mrs. Callahan wove the artful words of an experienced storyteller to communicate the intricacies of a variety of sea animals. While observing, I quickly noticed that the students were inspired to do the same while presenting information on a research project. Everyone did an amazing job and included such illustrative details, that I was a little squeamish after hearing about each creature’s specific diet.
I also remember how kind Mrs. Callahan was to every person she worked with. I recall a time when she demonstrated the true spirit of a servant leader while supporting one of her colleagues through a tough time. It was very humbling to walk into her classroom and see her lead a group of teachers while supporting each other.
I know that Mrs. Callahan cared for everyone she came in contact with, and we are very fortunate to have had the honor to learn from her. She will be missed but will forever exist through the impact she has had on us all.
Lori Roberts: I don’t get the privilege to work with Ashley. She hired me when she was a department chair, but what I didn’t know until later is that she chose me to take care of her AP Biology kids when she was moving schools. She was always warm, welcoming, and very real. I had the extreme privilege to get closer to her personally this summer and I’m so grateful for that time. She loved fiercely! That included her family, friends, and students. She was so very passionate about education and was seeking ways to make it better any way she could. The students knew they had a teacher that cared for them but would also be real with them. They confided in her and knew they had a safe space with her.
Even in the short time I got to spend with her, she was one that kept me laughing, reached out and included me into her friend-family, and opened her heart to me and my family. I will cherish her memory and always remember her with fondness and love.
Courtney Whitley: Ashley was the ultimate hype woman. She was always building others up and helping where she could. She was full of joy and passionate about life. She was so fun to be around. I first met her when I started working at Walnut Grove in 2016. I was pregnant with my first son and she had just had Charles. She was so kind and constantly checked on me. We got close when she and I were pregnant together with Vincent and Bennett. Vinnie and Benny, the dynamic duo, then started daycare together and became best friends. From then on, we did birthdays and halloween parties and all the great kid things. She was such a fun mom, always down for an adventure. She was a great work friend, but also a great mom friend. She always provided the encouragement that I needed to get through hard things. On hard days, she made the best tomato soup, one of her favorite comfort foods. In the summer of 2022, we were having a playdate at their beautiful “country house”, as my kids call it, and my Bennett broke his arm. I absolutely panicked in every sense of the word. Ashley stayed super calm, she talked me through it, called her sister, and checked on us about every hour until we got out of our emergency surgery all while taking care of my Brooks on his first ever sleep over and prepping for Charles’ birthday party the next day. Ashley was brilliant and an incredible problem solver. You could always go to her when you needed help figuring something out. She loved her family more than words can say and I am so grateful to have known her.
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