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Walnut Street Christian School grieves loss of role model

AVIS — Teacher, counselor, principal, mentor, mom figure and role model are just some of roles filled by Kathy Gotschall, more commonly known to many at Walnut Street Christian School as Mrs. G.

The beloved educator, known to all as Gotschall, passed away in February after a years-long battle with breast cancer, leaving behind a grieving faculty, staff and student body.

She referred to all 111 of the students in pre-K through 12th grade as her “babies,” said Rev. Tim Longnecker, the school principal.

Gotschall dedicated more than 25 years to the school and her students first as a part-time elementary teacher starting in 1993 and then moving on to teach Bible class, English, French, drama and other electives, said Longnecker. She also served as guidance counselor and principal at the school.

“No one here has just one job,” Longnecker said with a smile.

While tears still are fresh, those who miss Mrs. G take comfort in remembering the good times and laughing together at memories of her sense of humor, indomitable spirit and spot-on wisdom valued by both students and faculty.

Though humble in nature and never “seeking the limelight,” said Longnecker, she liked to joke about being a queen, her office door still stenciled with “If the crown fits…”

Seniors Amelia Smith, Kaela Howell and Sierra Weaver laughed remembering Mrs. G’s standard response to a compliment about her impeccable style, whether it was her matching jewelry or her perfect manicures. “I look good and I’m not going to lie!” Gotschall would tease.

The girls recalled asking her to speak French, not because they understood the language, but to hear the beauty of the sounds as she spoke.

They also noted her manner of talking with her hands through smooth, elegant gestures.

Weaver noted the girls had Mrs. G’s class every Friday.

She loved to sing, they remembered. “Sometimes Mrs. G. could ‘pick up our vibe in class,’ “ said Howell, sensing that the students were stressed. “She would put on worship songs and we would sing as a class together. We all felt better.”

“Her door was always open,” added Howell, explaining Mrs. G.’s accessibility and willingness to give advice or offer help. It didn’t matter if the problem was something minor or even annoying,” she said.

“I could just walk in and sit in her Jazzy scooter,” referencing Mrs. G’s mode of transportation through the school, the student pointed out.

‘Oh, Boy,’ she would say, “and I would just sit in the scooter and tell her everything,” Howell admitted. “First let’s pray about it,” Gotschall would suggest, and sometimes she would ask for a little time to think about it before offering her wisdom and advice.

Her accessibility also applied to faculty and staff. “I could always go to her and say, “Do you have a few minutes?” said Longnecker.

Teachers Sandy Patalive and Angelyn Trumbull agreed that Mrs. G was “fantastic” as a boss and a teacher.

She had the vision and the big picture they needed and was never too proud to say she needed help, they noted. She always included them by saying, “This is what I see. Now help me make it happen!”

When going over a professional observation or highlighting a better way, she was tactful and positive. “Here’s where you can do better,” she might say. She spoke frankly but did not cause hurt feelings.

“She had a gift for telling you that you were wrong and before you left, you were thanking her for the correction!” said Longnecker.

When dealing with students she was willing to dig deeply to find their hearts, and wasn’t afraid to tell teachers to do the same, to consider the problem as a “heart issue” and to dig a little deeper.

In everything Gotschall did, Patalive and Trumbull agreed, “It always came back to the kids.”

Brandi Conklin, the school receptionist, remembered Gotschall as “a very talented lady,” one who not only rose to meet her most pressing responsibilities as an educator but who would also do all the decorations and floral arrangements for special events at the school.

In 2015, Mrs. G had to “step back” a bit with the recurrence of the cancer that had first appeared years earlier, said Conklin.

She was at the school almost all the way through January, noted Longnecker, riding her Jazzy through the halls before her passing in late February.

Sometimes the teachers and students think Gotschall is just at home and she is going to get better and come back, or they get lost laughing at something and think, “Oh, I’m going to tell Mrs. G. this story” and then they remember.

“We will see her again in Heaven, Longnecker promised. “We are assured of that.”

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