ELYRIA — Fellow teachers and students spoke with great fondness during a brief rally Monday afternoon to honor the memory of Elyria High School teacher Erin Adkins.
As they gathered in the school’s quiet, semi-enclosed courtyard beneath clear blue sunny skies, teacher Tina Biltz described the rally as “incredible, sad, awesome and inspiring.”
“She made me a better teacher,” Biltz said, her voice breaking. “She cared about the kids to a level I didn’t even know about.”
Biltz, who teaches world history, got to know Adkins well during five years on the same teaching team with her.
Adkins died April 13 at age 31 following an eight-month battle with cancer.
An Oberlin native and 2000 Elyria High School graduate, Adkins returned to the school in 2005, where she taught freshman English.
Senior Darius Kirk talked of having Adkins for his homeroom teacher throughout high school. “She was the nicest, kindest person,” Kirk said. “She loved us.”
Adkins’ death hit Kirk hard.
“It broke my heart,” Kirk said. “I’d do anything to get her back.”
For junior Dominique Sanchez, 17, Adkins was always there to help improve her grammar.
“I can remember she would always tell me to think and then say,” Sanchez said, squinting in the bright afternoon sunshine as she sat on a bench in the school’s courtyard.
Sanchez called Adkins “Miss Velma” because of her resemblance to the brainy, dark-haired, bespectacled Velma from “Scooby-Doo” cartoon fame.
“I’d come in the room and say “Jinkies, Miss Velma!”
Red tees were worn by several hundred students and most of the staff Monday, Biltz said. The tees were made by teacher Amanda Belcher and her boyfriend through their fledgling Elyria American T-shirt business.
Nearly 700 of the $10 tees have been sold to date, Biltz said.
The $3,000-plus generated so far by the tees — which shows the name “Adkins” across a white cancer ribbon on the back — for the Erin Adkins Memorial Scholarship Fund will be used to award two scholarships during this week’s senior awards ceremony, teachers said.
Both teachers spoke about the affinity Adkins had for working with and supporting troubled students.
“She said that they are not always what they seem, that a tough exterior can really mask jelly on the inside,” Biltz said.