Teachers at Torrey Pines High School have chosen to honor the memory of Catherine “Kit” Moffett by selecting her as this year’s Teacher of the Year. The Falcon family lost Moffett to cancer in December 2018.
Moffett, an English teacher at Torrey Pines for the last 19 years, received by far the highest votes of the teachers nominated on campus.
“I tried for many years to nominate Kit Moffett for Teacher of the Year, but she wouldn't hear of it because she shied away from the limelight,” said Anastasia Kokkinis, a close friend and fellow English teacher. “She was very much a behind-the-scenes kind of person, offering her support in so many small but important ways—always the unsung hero.”
Moffett began her teaching career in the Los Angeles Unified School District before taking some time off to raise her three children. She resumed her career at Torrey Pines in 1999, where she taught honors English, AP English language and composition, as well as acting classes at times over the years.
After being diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer, Moffett left campus in spring 2018. Principal Rob Coppo said they held her job for her but Kit was unfortunately never able to return.
“It hit everyone like a ton of bricks that she wasn’t with us anymore,” Coppo said.
Coppo worked with Moffett for 11 years and said her impact on the school was immeasurable. The two parked near each other in the parking lot and often arrived to school at the same time—Coppo said whatever drama was happening on campus, she was able to distill it down, ask leading questions and give him near-daily moments of clarity. She continued that approach in the classroom.
“I think what made her so great was her deep insight, especially when it came to the students themselves,” Coppo said. “She knew the subject matter backward and forward but she had an ability to connect with the evolving needs of students over the last decade.”
In her 19 years at Torrey Pines she became especially close with her cohort of English teachers that included Kokkinis, Lisa Callender and Mia Smith. The three teachers shared their thoughts about their friend and colleague:
Lisa Callender, English teacher/department chair
It is difficult to sum up just how special my dear friend Kit Moffett was but I’ll try. As a teacher, she was dedicated to her craft. She worked hard to instill a strong work ethic in her students by holding them accountable. She challenged their critical thinking skills with thoughtful discussions and perpetual essay writing. She was a straight shooter and let her students know their weaknesses but worked with them to continually improve. Her wry sense of humor and tough exterior did not mask her deeply caring, sensitive nature.
As a colleague, she was a consummate professional and well respected by her peers. And lastly, as a friend, she was fiercely loyal, supportive and protective. You could always depend on her wisdom and sage advice both professionally and personally. She will be deeply missed.
Anastasia Kokkinis, English teacher
She was a master at her craft and enjoyed being in the classroom, engaging with students, delving into literature, and even advising students regarding their college admissions process. A former student recently shared with me that it was because of her that he was inspired to write a book.
Beyond the classroom, she was a source of support for her colleagues, helping us through difficult situations.She breathed courage into us to return another day and become better educators—always the master teacher. And more than all that, she loved sharing her wisdom with us about babies and parenting because she was an incredible mother and role model.
I learned so much from her and by her example, and I miss her dearly.
Mia Smith, English/journalism teacher
Kit was that rare person who cared deeply about all the roles she inhabited: wife, mother, teacher and colleague but had no interest in drawing attention to either her passion or her diligence. She had a quiet confidence born of her sharp mind, uncanny perception, strong sense of herself and her unflagging devotion to her family and theirs to her.
When I was harried, impatient or confused about how to proceed on any student, parent or school matter, Kit always had the right advice, delivered with complete equanimity, probably because she knew that was what I needed most. Her former students speak of her expertise in writing and literature, her self-assurance in interesting and engaging class discussions, the way she challenged them to work hard and improve and her kindheartedness when they came to her with personal problems. As a friend, she was equally wise. Even though I’ve been a mother longer, Kit listened to and advised me with clarity and affection.
The thing I am missing most, the thing I miss every single day, is her sense of humor, dry and deadly accurate. She made me laugh so hard and so often, over lunches, on walks, in trips to the bathroom on breaks, by text and in phone conversations.
Her absence has left a huge hole in my life.
Torrey Pines will honor Moffett’s life as part of the Coach C Walk Against Cancer on Saturday, March 30 at 9 a.m. at Torrey Pines. To register online visit tpcancerwalk.org.
The Torrey Pines High School Foundation has also set up a Kit Moffett Scholarship Fund in her memory. To donate, visit tphssf.org/memorial_scholarship_donations/kit_moffett_memorial_fund