A story gave an incorrect address for college fund donations for the daughter of the late Foothill Hill High School choir teacher JoAnn Koobatian, who died Oct. 18. Donations may be made to College America with "Amanda Koobatian" written on the check memo line. They may be left at the Foothill office or mailed to Richard Koobatian, 5923 Corte Espada, Pleasanton, CA 94566.
PLEASANTON -- JoAnn Koobatian was the kind of teacher who inspired intense devotion from her students.
Foothill High School's longtime choir teacher died Oct. 18 of a rare form of cancer she'd been battling for more than eight years.
Koobatian's life will be celebrated at a memorial service Nov. 9 at 1 p.m. in Valley Community Church, 4455 Del Valle Parkway in Pleasanton.
"She's so beloved because she not only produces great singers and choirs, she produces great people," said Mark Aubel, a longtime friend and Amador Valley High School choir teacher. "She doesn't teach just music, she teaches through music. There's a difference."
Students formed deep attachments to Koobatian because they oftentimes had her for choir the entire time they were in high school, Aubel noted. Many students also worked with her on the annual spring musicals produced by Foothill and Amador Valley students.
"When you're with somebody for three or four years, you become even more attached and loved by your students," he said.
Koobatian, 47, worked hard to maintain her home life and career as she battled the thymus gland cancer she was diagnosed with in 2005. She flatly rejected her doctor's recommendation that she go on long-term disability, saying that her work with students kept her going.
"It's a struggle some days, of course, but you just do it," she said in a 2011 interview. "It pushes you. It's good to be pushed. The kids get a lot out of it, too. They see me pushing myself, so they push themselves."
Koobatian kept working even as she endured countless rounds of chemotherapy and experimental treatments to extend her life. She worked until her latest setback nearly three weeks before her death landed her back in the hospital.
"No matter how she was feeling, she always came to school every single day to be there for her students," senior Chanel Vismara said. "She knew her students needed her. That was really inspirational. Her students are what drove her."
Koobatian managed to inspire her choir students and spring musical cast members even after radiation treatments stole her singing voice in 2007. Her voice was rendered almost as soft as a whisper.
"Being able to be so invested in that, particularly when you've lost your voice, was something pretty stunning to see," senior Jacob Richey said. "It can't come out through singing, so it has to come out in other ways."
Koobatian started her career at Foothill in 1996, reviving a bare-bones program that had nearly been wiped out in the 1980s. She created such a stellar program that she was named Pleasanton's teacher of the year in 2001.
Teacher Valerie Rossman and Koobatian became fast friends when Rossman, then Foothill's drama teacher, recruited Koobatian to help produce the Foothill-Amador spring musicals.
"She has a great passion for what she does," Rossman said. "Nothing stopped her from her love of teaching, her love of her students. She gave 100 percent, no matter how sick she was or how big her problems were."
Teacher Trish Fenton, one of Koobatian's closest friends, called her buddy a "warrior goddess." "She's everything I would want to be as a woman and a teacher and a mother," Fenton said. "She made no excuses for anything. She just went to work and did her job. She didn't want people to feel sorry for her. I'm going to miss her so much."
The Nov. 9 memorial service will feature speakers and a slideshow highlighting Koobatian's life. Foothill's choirs will perform three songs with the audience being asked to sing along on the third song, Aubel said.
"Any former students who had Mrs. K can join in," he said. "We're going to surround the audience and sing together. The purpose of the public celebration is really to celebrate her life and let the kids express their love for Mrs. K and for the community to come together and celebrate JoAnn."
Koobatian is survived by her husband, Richard; 12-year-old daughter, Amanda; parents, Bill and Beverly Nalbandian; and brother, Bob Nalbandian.
A memorial fund has been established to help pay for college for Koobatian's daughter, Amanda. Donations may be made to College America with Amanda Koobatian College Fund on the memo line. Checks may be dropped in the Foothill office or mailed to Richard Koobatian, 5323 Corte Espada, Pleasanton, CA 94566.