Former Moody School educator Kim Cresta was beloved by everyone she knew at the school.
Cresta died from cancer last year, but her legacy will remain in the school.
With the help of students from Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School, a wooden "giving tree'' was built to memorialize Cresta for all the help she gave everyone at the school.
"She just had a way of making everyone feel comfortable," said Judi Zaino, former Moody principal. "She cared so much about the people at this school."
Moody staff members held a ceremony Friday in which the tree was unveiled in a school hallway. The ceremony's highlight was a poem about Cresta written by Zaino.
"Kim was a giving person. Children were the first priority of her heart," the poem reads. "Whenever children were in need she did more than her part.''
The tree will honor students who help others. Whenever a student gives to a charity, his or her name will be displayed on the tree.
School Superintendent James Scully attended the ceremony to pay his respects to the late teacher. Scully is the former principal at Consentino Middle School, which Cresta's children attended.
"Many of the people who worked at Moody always thought she was the lifeline of what went on here," Scully said. "It's nice that we have such wonderful people like Kim who make such an impression on the kids."
Cresta worked at Moody School for nine years and was working there right up until her death last June, after a 10-year battle with breast and liver cancer. She was 47.
Several of Cresta's relatives, including her mother, Karen Rhodes, attended the ceremony and were touched by the thoughtfulness of the Moody staff.
"It means everything to me that the school still chooses to remember her," Rhodes said. "She loved to come here every day. Everyone here did so many things for her when she was sick."
A picture of Cresta hangs on the wall above the tree and is one of the first things anyone who walks into the building sees. The tree was made by Whittier teacher Earl Corr's carpentry students. Students from Whittier's early childhood program routinely help the kids at the Moody School during the school year. There is also a plaque between Cresta's picture and the tree, part of which reads: "To a generous teacher and giving friend who from the start believed in helping others with purist intentions in her heart."
Cresta began at the Moody School as a volunteer, but was recruited by Zaino to work full time because of how well she taught special needs children. Cresta worked at Moody as a paraprofessional, but was attending Northern Essex Community College, even through her sickness, so she could earn an associate's degree. That would have allowed her to become a teacher.
"She wanted so much to be a teacher right from the start," Zaino read from her poem. "She wouldn't settle for anything else. It was the hope within her heart."
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