After the first payday each month, Andrea Kirkpatrick and Danielle Johnson met with several other Oakland Middle School teachers for “cheese day.” Each teacher would bring a fancy cheese — or a “friend of cheese” such as salami or crackers — and talk about the merits of each cheese.
Mrs. Kirkpatrick and Johnson appreciated good food, and the two created the fun monthly meeting as a way to make lunchtime brighter. That was Mrs. Kirkpatrick, Johnson said — she took her job seriously but also had fun.
Andrea Kirkpatrick, 43, died unexpectedly on Monday, March 19, 2018.
Johnson said the pair was scheduled to host an out-of-school cheese day next week, and she and around eight other teachers still planned to get together to eat Mrs. Kirkpatrick’s favorite cheeses in her memory.
Mrs. Kirkpatrick was born Nov. 25, 1974, in Smithville and grew up in Parkville, in northeast Missouri. She graduated with her bachelor’s degree from Northeast Missouri State University, which changed its name to Truman State University by the time she earned her master’s degree there. She taught for the Columbia Public School District for 18 years, starting as an English teacher at Oakland before spending the past few years as a gifted program teacher at both Oakland and Smithton Middle schools.
Throughout her life, Mrs. Kirkpatrick always put others’ needs before her own, Angela Housand, her older sister said.
“One time when she was little, I came home and my friends had been mean, and she said she was going to beat them up for me,” Housand said, chuckling at the memory. “She was like 5 or 6 at the time.”
Mrs. Kirkpatrick belonged to a family of teachers, her mother, Helen Pigg said. Mrs. Kirkpatrick’s husband, Brett Kirkpatrick, is a teacher, and he said many people on both sides of their family are teachers.
Mrs. Kirkpatrick’s students had to work hard, said Alisha Long, an eighth grade Smithton English teacher.
“She was very dedicated,” Long said. “She believed in her kids, and she challenged them.”
Mrs. Kirkpatrick always strived to learn more, Housand said. Brett Kirkpatrick said she had “insatiable curiosity” about the world. She was interested in Holocaust education, and was awarded a fellowship from Columbia University a couple summers ago to study in New York, he said. Mrs. Kirkpatrick even brought a Holocaust survivor to speak with eighth grade students through a grant she received, said Johnson, Mrs. Kirkpatrick’s colleague at Oakland.
Pigg said her daughter tried to find unique field trips for her students, such as going to Whiteman Air Force Base. Mrs. Kirkpatrick strived to make learning relevant, Johnson said, and was not only an excellent teacher but also a strong leader to her colleagues. She strived to make sure they knew they were appreciated. Johnson said Mrs. Kirkpatrick would drop notes in the teacher mailboxes or get someone a random small present because the gift reminded her of them.
Through the Missouri Writing Project, Mrs. Kirkpatrick became a writing consultant and taught at writing conferences for students. Johnson said Mrs. Kirkpatrick’s last day at work was March 9, the day of a conference.
“I just love that that’s how she spent her last day of work,” Johnson said. “She spent her whole day teaching writing, her love.”
Mrs. Kirkpatrick was creative and collected vintage objects, often frequenting estate sales and antique stores.
“She loved to make a beautiful home, but she always did it on a shoestring budget as a teacher,” Housand said. Instruments and vinyl records fill the Kirkpatricks’ home, too, because Mrs. Kirkpatrick loved music.
She also traveled. Her family traveled throughout the U.S. when she was a child, but an internship in Bulgaria during her college years spurred her to also travel internationally, Housand said. Paris, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic were a few of the places she traveled in recent years, Housand said.
She loved British television shows, Brett Kirkpatrick said. She started off with Downton Abbey and also watched others, such as Sherlock and Grantchester.
Mrs. Kirkpatrick was an amazing mother, sister and wife, Housand said. Brett Kirkpatrick said he and Mrs. Kirkpatrick were married for 20 years. They were friends in high school and began to date in college.
Long, whose room was across the hall from Mrs. Kirkpatrick, said she came to know Mrs. Kirkpatrick well because both their daughters belonged to their school’s Adventure Club. Mrs. Kirkpatrick, Long said, was easy to talk with about anything. The two often talked about their children.
Mrs. Kirkpatrick was accepting of everyone and “attune to who kids are.”
“She was an advocate, even with her own kids,” Long said. “She knew she was their first defender.”
Kids who struggled to fit in knew they had an ally in Mrs. Kirkpatrick, Johnson said.
“One of the students told me, ‘I always felt safe in her room,’” Johnson said. “She had a really quirky sense of humor and got the kids who didn’t always feel like they fit in.”
Johnson calculated that Mrs. Kirkpatrick touched the lives of over 2,500 children, plus colleagues, in her 18 years with Columbia Public Schools. Many of those students plan to honor her, Johnson said. She said one former student wants to make March 19 Andrea Kirkpatrick Day.
Eighth-graders at Oakland Middle School want to learn how to make a documentary, produce one about Mrs. Kirkpatrick and submit it to next year’s True/False Film Fest because she loved the annual festival.
Mrs. Kirkpatrick is survived by her husband, Brett Kirkpatrick; her children, Curran Kirkpatrick, Culley Kirkpatrick and Ada Kirkpatrick; her siblings, Angela Housand, Alicia Pigg and Ryan Pigg and their spouses; and her parents, Helen Pigg and Robert Pigg.
*A funeral Mass for Andrea Kirkpatrick will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday, March 28, at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 105 Waugh St. A community event celebrating her life will be held at 2 p.m. the same day at Albert-Oakland Park. In the event of rainy or cold weather, the event will move to Oakland Middle School, 3405 Oakland Place. All are welcome.