Julie Loland got others excited about her ideas, whether it was organizing her co-workers to surprise their students with a “flash mob” at a year-end school assembly or it was incorporating the latest technology in the classroom.
She was a natural leader, full of energy, passion and kindness.
It was no surprise, then, to see almost all 240 students of Terry Fox Elementary, as well as parents, administrators and fellow teachers, turn out on Thursday morning for a touching tribute to the Grade 2 teacher.
The large group loaded onto four school buses and was taken to Abbotsford Regional Hospital.
There, they gathered on a grass area outside the hospital, just below the room being occupied by Loland.
Loland, who had been battling cancer, was admitted to hospital earlier in the week.
Some of her fellow teachers decided they wanted to do something to lift her spirits. They discussed the plan during their lunch break on Wednesday, and all the students were given permission forms later that day to take home for signing by their parents.
“We just wanted to lift her up and show her how much we love her,” said teacher Karla Stroete of Loland.
“She’s just an amazing teacher, wife, mother, friend … She’s been a real leader at our school.”
It culminated Thursday morning with the large group breaking into song on the hospital grounds in tribute to Loland, whose husband Reuben was also on scene.
They chose their school’s theme, The Terry Fox Song, written in 1993 by Grade 7 student Samanta Van Staalduinen.
The chorus included these lyrics: “Sometimes there’s a problem, something you’ll find tough, but do the best you can and you have done enough.”
When they were done, they all waved to their beloved teacher and exclaimed: “We love you, Mrs. Loland!”
Some of the adults hugged each other and wiped away tears, while Loland, who was difficult to see through the tinted hospital windows, waved back.
Sadly, Terry Fox Elementary’s beloved teacher Mrs. Loland, 37, lost her battle with cancer 24 hours later, leaving an entire school in mourning.
Loland’s close friend, fellow teacher Colleen Gregory, said on Monday that Loland’s passing has left a big hole.
“She was so vibrant – positive, giving, so kind, humble, passionate about what she does,” Gregory said. “People were drawn to her because she was so excited about things.”
Loland had been teaching in the Abbotsford school district for more than a dozen years, and had been at Terry Fox Elementary since 2004.
She was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer in January 2012 which metastasized to her lymph nodes while she was pregnant with her third child.
She was dealing with a second round of chemotherapy and raising her three young sons – now ages one, four and eight – while earning her master’s of education degree in educational practice from Simon Fraser University later that year.
Gregory said Loland was loved by her students.
“They did adore her. She was very spontaneous in doing things for them. Her students just got excited by her energy.”
The Lolands’ oldest son plays hockey, and on Sunday the Abbotsford Minor Hockey Association held the Julie Loland Memorial Game, naming her son the MVP of the game. Almost $2,000 was raised for the Julie Loland Foundation.
The school plans to hold a special service/assembly in memory of Loland within the next couple of weeks. A public memorial service takes place this Friday, Feb. 7 at Northview Community Church (32040 Downes Rd.), starting at 11 a.m.
IN LOVING MEMORY
The Julie Loland Foundation has been set up to award a bursary to a student entering the education field and whose family has been affected by cancer.
Contributions can be made via the “Loving the Lolands” community Facebook page.
As well, some events are taking place to raise funds for Loland’s husband and children.
These include a cut-a-thon this Thursday (Feb. 6) from 2 to 6 p.m. at Terry Fox Elementary (3071 Babich St.) with stylists from Kobie’s Hair Gallery volunteering their time. Cuts are by donation, and will be done on a drop-in basis.
Julie’s Benefit Bash takes place on Saturday, Feb. 15 at the Abbotsford District Teachers’ Association Hall, starting at 7 p.m. Cost is $25, with tickets available on eventbrite.com. More information is on the “Julie’s Benefit Bash” Facebook page.