OAKLAND -- The Montclair Elementary School community is mourning the loss of longtime teacher Robert Jue, who taught at the school for 26 years.
Jue, 63, died at his home on Oct. 7 after a 16-month battle with kidney cancer, which was diagnosed on the eve of his retirement in June 2011.
"The impact he had on generations of kids was profound," said Principal Nancy Bloom.
"The reason he was so important to so many families was that he was their kid's first teacher. He loved them and they knew it," said Susan Brookes, a former parent and teacher at Montclair Elementary.
Born on May 5, 1949, Jue was born and raised in Oakland. He attended UC Davis and received a master's degree in educational leadership from Saint Mary's College in Moraga. He taught at Grass Valley and Stonehurst elementary schools before Montclair Elementary.
Jue spent the majority of his tenure at Montclair teaching kindergarten. He was widely regarded to be the quintessential teacher.
"He taught every kid as if they were his own. He was very patient, direct and fair to the kids. He taught them the skills they needed to be nice kids. He stretched their minds with science," said his longtime colleague Karen Nicola.
Jue leaves behind a son, Jeremy, 32, and daughter, Sierra, 26. He was an outdoorsman who loved camping, hiking and cycling and had a particular fondness for the Sierra Nevada.
In a farewell letter he penned to the community before his death, Jue asked to be remembered "when you stand at the top of a mountain peak gazing over the valley below and a warm breeze touches your face, when you dive into a cool swimming pool or mountain lake and feel the rush of vitality that lifts both body and spirit, when you gaze around a campfire at the people you love, when you walk under the bright light of a harvest moon, or when your child falls asleep in your arms and you gaze up at the night sky to see a small star twinkle, you will know I am there."
A group of former students, now in the sixth grade, descended on the school on Wednesday, bearing flowers honoring Jue and the role he played at Montclair Elementary School.
"I thought it would be nice to bring flowers to show how much we appreciated, loved and cared about Mr. Jue," said Sophie Friedman, a sixth-grader at Montera Middle School.
"We felt we should remember the school because it meant so much to us when we were growing up," said Isabella Caliri, also a sixth-grade student at Montera.
"I remember the first day of kindergarten and how scared I was," reminisced former student Allison Rogers, "Mr. Jue was so open and made us feel so welcome."
Jue's philosophy was that "every child was successful. It's our goal (as teachers) to find the thing that made them shine," Nicola said.
A celebration of longtime Montclair Elementary teacher Robert Jue's life is to be held in early November at Montclair Elementary. For more information, go to www.montclairelementaryschool.org.