Members of sixth-grade teacher Louise Kaster’s family hugged her students tightly on Thursday and released green and yellow balloons in her honor at Lorena Falasco Elementary School.
In addition to releasing 70 balloons, students and staff at the school held a ceremony for Kaster, who was killed in a two-vehicle crash Monday.
The balloon colors were based off her favorite sports team, the Oakland A’s and Green Bay Packers.
“I know she would say she didn’t deserve this, but it’s just overwhelming,” said Louise Kaster’s husband, Nathan Kaster.
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Students and staff formed a circle around the school flagpole. Louise Kaster’s 34 students were each given a balloon. Staff members also held balloons.
Principal Jane Brittell read a poem, “Gone From My Sight,” by Henry Van Dyke.
Los Banos High School music instructor Tom Faria sang a rendition of “I’ll Fly Away.” And as the song ended, the balloons were released.
As students at the school watched the balloons climb toward the sun, many in Kaster’s class burst into tears.
Students presented their teacher’s family with thick bundles of letters describing their feelings about their teacher. And each one hugged members of her family.
“It was her first year teaching,” Nathan Kaster said. “She told me she was going to have a hard time the last day of school, missing the kids. She couldn’t make it.”
Louise Kaster, 54, died in a two-vehicle crash Monday on Ingomar Grade near the Ingomar Packing Plant about 7 a.m.
She was driving a 2012 Ford Focus south on Ingomar Grade when a 1993 Nissan Sentra traveling north at a high rate of speed lost control negotiating a curve in the road and hit her vehicle head-on, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Neither drugs nor alcohol appear to have been a factor in the crash, according to the CHP.
The driver of the Nissan, Los Banos resident Esteban Arellano, also was killed in the accident. Both drivers were alone in their vehicles.
CHP Officer Dean Emehiser on Thursday said the cause of the crash remains under investigation.
Kaster’s class was notified of her death Tuesday morning. Counselors were available for students and staff. Kaster’s students were also helped by support from their peers in other grades through letters expressing condolences over their loss.
Teaching was a ‘lifelong dream’
Kaster was an instructional assistant for most of her career at another district, but continued her education at California State University, Stanislaus.
“It was a lifelong dream of hers to teach, and she finally got that dream,” third-grade teacher Rosemary Alves said.
Alves said Kaster was new, and known for being friendly and positive. “She just really had a motherly, grandmotherly feel with the students,” Alves said. “But obviously she was still teaching a curriculum. The kids adored her.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up by school staff to help Kaster’s family: www.gofundme.com/arvgzuzw.
Anyone with information regarding the crash is asked to contact the Los Banos CHP office at 209-826-3811.