Community mourns death of beloved San Juan Unified school teacher

Local News

ARDEN-ARCADE, Calif. (KTXL) — Friends, colleagues, students, and even former students are sharing their stories and memories of a teacher who touched many lives.

Vanessa Liby taught seventh and eighth grade English and history at Sierra Oaks K-8 and had previously taught elementary school. 

She died last Friday from carcinosarcoma, a rare form of cancer.

Liby’s parents, King and Tessie Hunt, told FOX40 their daughter had a love for education and her students, whom she treated as her own.

“She touched everyone she came into contact with,” explained King Hunt through tears. “That’s one of the reasons she didn’t have any of her own kids because she had 60 special kids every day that she felt were her own and did everything she could for them, inspired them.

“She’s so concerned about our students, and they came first to her,” Tessie Hunt said.

The family said they received overwhelming support from so many people whose lives were impacted by Liby, whose career in education spanned two decades.

“The outpouring has been wonderful. All of it has helped us,” King Hunt said. “She’s been getting invites to past students’ high school graduations, weddings, baby showers.

In 2018, Liby was named San Juan Unified School District’s Educator of the Year. 

“To all of my marigolds, I value your advice, expertise and support. My husband, my family and some of my greatest friends, you give me the strength and courage to follow my passion. Thank you very much,” Liby said in a recording of her acceptance speech.

“She was always deflecting limelight to people that she thought deserved it. She was always a background person, always put others first,” King Hunt said.

Liby was a beloved daughter, aunt and teacher whose legacy of learning lives on.

The principal of Sierra Oaks K-8 released the following statement last week in regards to Liby’s death:

Dear Sierra Oaks families,

It is with great sadness that we must share that Sierra Oaks middle school teacher Vanessa Liby passed away this morning. The entire Sierra Oaks community is saddened by this tragic loss as we send our thoughts and wishes to Mrs. Liby’s family.

Mrs. Liby was a beloved Sierra Oaks middle school teacher, known for the positive relationships she had with students and her involvement in all middle school planning and events.

No announcements have yet been made regarding services or where to send remembrances. Many of our students and parents had close connections with Mrs. Liby.

Sudden death can often be difficult for both children and adults to process. Consider these steps to help you or your child with this difficult loss:

• Ask your child how they are feeling

• Give an opportunity to talk and share memories about Mrs. Liby with each other

• Watch for signs of stress or anxiety, including changes to appetite or sleep patterns and mood swings

• Seek help if needed. We will be making counselors available to any student who needs help with the grieving process.

Please let us know in the front office if you’d like to have your student speak with a counselor. Thank you for being a part of the Sierra Oaks community and for your support of our students, staff and parents during this difficult time.


Matt English, Principal, Sierra Oaks K-8

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