By Jennifer Eisenbart
In the minds of the people who knew her, there was no doubt that Jennifer Libbey was meant to be a kindergarten teacher.
“She loved life. She loved teaching. She loved kids,” said her husband, Nathan Libbey, said on Monday. “She loved me.
“I don’t know what else to add.”
Her husband, the Burlington Area School District and the community lost Jennifer Libbey Aug. 14, as she died unexpectedly in Wisconsin Rapids. She was 35.
Jennifer is survived by her husband and three children.
She was in Wisconsin Rapids for a teachers’ conference on 4-year-old kindergarten. After working in the district for 10 years, she was slated to become a 4K teacher this fall.
Nathan said Monday that his wife shared a ride up to Wisconsin Rapids with her current principal at Winkler School, Jacqueline Syens. His wife had mentioned feeling ill on the car ride up, “but they didn’t think anything of it.”
Jennifer collapsed shortly after the conference began at about 10:30 a.m. from what was believed to be a seizure. CPR was begun immediately, and when EMTs arrived, Nathan said they were able to re-establish a heart rhythm.
Near Gary, Indiana, at the time, Nathan turned around and drove up to Wisconsin Rapids. Staff had sounded optimistic, he said, and family went to Burlington for the kids.
Shortly after, Nathan said, “all of a sudden, everything failed.
“The staff up there was remarkable,” he said. “They fought, and Jen fought. It just didn’t work out.”
A passion for life
Nathan recalled the events leading to his meeting Jennifer. His mother, Victoria Libbey, wanted to introduce him to the new kindergarten teacher at her school – Waller Elementary.
“I was skeptical,” he said. But after meeting some of her coworkers, Nathan gave them his phone number to give to Jennifer.
“It was just the most amazing thing, for the last nine years I’ve known her,” said Nathan.
She eventually moved from Waller to Winkler School, where she continued to teacher kindergarten. She was slated to start this fall at Plymouth Children’s Center as one of several 4K teachers.
BASD Superintendent Peter Smet said Monday that he would serve as the district spokesperson regarding her death, and called Jennifer Libbey an asset to the district.
“She was a wonderful teacher,” said Smet, who called her death a “very sad time” for the district. Smet notified staff on Friday, and counseling was available for anyone who needed it.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Libbey family at this time,” he added.
Nathan Libbey said on Monday that an autopsy had been done, but the family was awaiting further testing information.
In the meantime, he was comforting his children.
“The 4-year-old doesn’t want mommy dead,” he said. “She misses her.”
But, he added, that family and friends have come through with a great deal of support, and he hopes people will remember that support will still be needed in the future.
“Just be there long-term,” he said.
An educational fund for the children has been set up at Educators Credit Union in Burlington.
“As we were sitting there setting it up, a gentleman came in and wanted to donate,” Nathan explained. “The support … has been beyond my wildest dreams.”
Visitation for Jennifer Libbey was held Tuesday at Daniels Family Funeral Home in Burlington, and the funeral service at St. Mary’s Church on Wednesday.