It is with a heavy heart and deep sadness that I share with you that Kristi Alvarez (National Council for Geographic Education President, 2010) died on January 26 in Redlands, California. Kristi died at home after a short, valiant battle with cancer. She is survived by her loving family—husband Ron; daughters Paige, Lexi, and Mary Beth and their husbands; and two precious granddaughters. How fortunate we all were to have been part of her extended geo-family.
Kristi was an exceptional teacher, leading us to know and understand so much about our world and about life. She constantly demonstrated how to live with joy, enthusiasm, and curiosity and taught us all, these last few months, how to exit this life with grace, courage, and, of course, humor. Fortunately, I was able to visit with her just a few weeks ago. I had some complications in getting my rental car and arrived a bit later than she and Ron expected. “Did you get lost?” she quipped as I walked in.
Kristi’s remarkable teaching career began in a middle school special education classroom and continued as a high school social studies teacher in Florida, where she was recognized as teacher of the year at her high school and her school district in 1993. Her students noted how “Mrs. A made learning fun!” After earning her Ph.D. from the University of Southern Mississippi Kristi continued her career in the Department of Geography at Keene State College from 1999 to 2009 where she taught numerous courses, worked with student teachers and touched the lives of countless students and teachers through her role as the New Hampshire Geographic Alliance coordinator and the organizer of the State Geographic Bee. Her most recent academic home, the University of Redlands in California, allowed her to explore her passion in geo-technologies and spatial thinking, as well as mentor pre-service teachers and initiate a revolutionary graduate program in spatial literacy for educators. Through the years, she served on numerous national panels and committees dedicated to geographic education and was active in AP Human Geography. It is impossible to estimate just how many lives have been positively touched by Kristi’s teaching.
Kristi’s leadership in NCGE was equally stellar, serving on the Administrative Committee as Vice President of Curriculum and Instruction, President, and Past President from 2007 to 2011. Kristi’s unwavering dedication to NCGE was evident in all the projects and programs she coordinated. She logged countless hours and worked tirelessly for the betterment of our organization. She believed so strongly in providing a professional organization dedicated to the teaching and learning of geography and continuously advocated how NCGE met the unique needs of classroom teachers. Her vision helped guide NCGE during transitional years when our Central Office found a permanent home in Washington, D.C.
We could fill pages with all of Kristi’s professional accomplishments, but the true value of our life’s work can never be captured by a list on a CV. Rather, Kristi’s most significant contributions are those she made to the lives of others with her compassion, wisdom, patience, wit, and kindness. It has been said that a life well lived involves laughing often and loving much, winning the respect of others and the affection of children, and giving freely of oneself to improve the lives of others. In reflecting on my dear friend’s life and all she contributed to the betterment of others—her love, her laughter, and the highest regard with which we hold her in our hearts today, Kristi Alvarez’s life could not have been more well lived. I am consoled today thinking of how her light will continue to shine through all of us who were graced by her life.
Today I have an answer for the question Kristi posed to me a few weeks ago. Yes, my friend, I am lost. I cannot even begin to imagine the world without you. I will long for your wonderful companionship on the NCGE field trips that we promised to take together, and I will continuously invoke your spirit as I work to promote all things geography. I take great comfort in the thought that you are off on an amazing adventure where I am sure you are drawing maps, exploring, and asking all kinds of questions.
Safe travels my friend.
—By Jan Smith, Associate Professor at Shippensburg University and coordinator of the Pennsylvania Alliance for Geographic Education
The memorial service for Kristi Alvarez will take place on Tuesday, January 31 at 11 a.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church, 419 South 4th Street, Redlands, CA 92373-5952.
In lieu of flowers the family asks for donations to be made to one of the following: Diocese of Florida, “Camp Weed Scholarship Fund”, 325 Market St., Jacksonville, FL 32202 or The University of Redlands School of Education, “Geography Kids Camp”, Attn: Martin Bright, 1200 E. Colton Ave., Redlands, CA, 92373.