Del Mar district board mourns special teacher: ‘We will take care of her children’

At the Aug. 26 Del Mar Union School District board meeting, colleagues reflected on the loss of teacher Debra Kelly, 41, who passed away on Aug. 9 after a fight with cervical cancer.

She is survived by her husband, Joe (“Sifi”), and children Jack and Charlotte, who attend Torrey Hills Elementary School.

“She was very special to all of us in the district,” said Superintendent Holly McClurg. “She was taken from us much too soon, and we will take care of her children.”

Kelly was a teacher in the district for 15 years, starting as a fifth grade teacher at Del Mar Heights and, most recently, teaching kindergarten at Ocean Air School.

At the Aug. 26 meeting, Erik Bienke, president of the Del Mar California Teachers Association, said Kelly was his master teacher when he first started at Del Mar Heights.

“From the very first day, she completely opened her classroom to me with complete trust and just the right amount of care and support,” Bienke said. “I owe so much of my success as a teacher to her.”

Bienke said she will be remembered for her “kindness, her radiant smile and for being an amazing wife, mother and friend.”

A Facebook page was set up to honor Debbie and it is filled with messages from friends, former students and fellow teachers.

Kelly was “an angel on earth, an inspiration, perfection, smart, kind, magical and a true beauty who has made all of our lives richer in every way,” wrote Paige Rollins, who was a “baby teacher” alongside Kelly at Del Mar Heights.

“She was quiet, calm and did not feel the need to have recognition for all she did, instead she chose to let others shine,” wrote friend Paula Diamond. “One of the books she read to her kindergarten students as they started their educational journey was called ‘The Curious Garden.’ It is a beautiful example of how one person can make a difference and inspire others to bring joy and beauty to this world.”

Diamond wrote that Kelly certainly made a difference and was not just a teacher in the classroom, but one of life.

A celebration of her life was held Aug. 22 at Canyon Crest Academy.