Emotional ceremony draws school together for Lisa Escott

Ruhkala school plants tree in remembrance
By: Lauren Weber, The Placer Herald
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In front of the kindergarten classrooms at Ruhkala Elementary School, a pink crape myrtle will grow in honor of Lisa Escott, a teacher who recently lost her battle to breast cancer. The tree was planted during a memorial ceremony held Friday in honor of the kindergarten teacher, with friends, family, former students and fellow teachers present to remember Escott. The emotional morning was in remembrance of Escott, a Ruhkala teacher since the school’s start and a teacher in Rocklin for 14 years. Escott was diagnosed with breast cancer in January of 2006 and fought for three years until November 2008 when she passed away. But Friday was a reminder of the impact one teacher can have on the lives of so many. Ruhkala Principal Gary Yee read exerts from letters written to Escott from a few of her students. “You’re my friend,” one student wrote. “You are the best teacher ever, ever, ever and ever for my whole life,” another wrote. “Thank you for being my teacher. I hope you get a day full of flowers,” another student wrote. Rich Escott, Lisa’s husband, was in the audience. As the school’s landscapers placed the tree into its spot, Rich shoveled in the first scoop of dirt to plant the tree in honor of his wife. “She just loved to teach,” Rich said. “Every year, she cried at the end (of the school year), to see her kids leave.” Rich and Lisa have two children: Allison, a sophomore at Rocklin High School, and Patrick who attends Cal Poly Pomona, the school where Rich and Lisa first met. Patrick is living in the same dorm where the two lived in college, Rich said. Rich said the plant, full of pink flowers once in bloom, had sentimental value. The color has become a national symbol for the fight against breast cancer and the crepe myrtle has symbolic meaning, as it was first centered on a quest for disease resistance, according to the U.S. National Arboretum Web site. “Obviously it’s a great honor, right in front of her classroom,” Rich said. Many of Lisa’s former students were present for the ceremony. Third-grader Garrett Mattos was in Lisa’s class as a kindergartener and still remembers making Christmas ring ornaments in her class, he said. Third-grader Iman Eid also had Lisa in kindergarten and remembers learning how to draw farm animals like cows and pigs in Lisa’s class. “She was nice, she was my favorite teacher,” Eid said. Abby Von Savoye, a sophomore at Rocklin High School, said Lisa was like a second mother to her. Von Savoye is Allison’s friend and said Lisa was always easy to talk to. Von Savoye said Lisa would have reacted positively to Friday’s ceremony. “She would have loved it. She was always happy,” Von Savoye said. “It just showed that she helped out a lot of kids.” Yee said the memorial planting was a first for a staff member at Ruhkala. He said it is “lovely to have something that is living” in honor of Lisa. “She was a role model in the way she carried herself in this really trying time,” Yee said. “Lisa embodies the loving aspects of teaching and love of children is the most important character you can have as a teacher.” Placer Herald’s Lauren Weber can be reached at