More than 100 students, families and staff members of Montclair Elementary School in Oakland came together Wednesday evening, Aug. 15, to honor a beloved music teacher who recently passed away.
Wanda Redman-Eklund had taught music at Montclair Elementary for decades before retiring at the end of the 2016-17 school year. Just one year later, on July 23, she lost her battle with gallbladder cancer at age 71.
Montclair Elementary is located at 1757 Mountain Blvd.
One after another, her friends, fellow teachers and former students stood up – many of them fighting back tears – and talked about the impact that “Ms. Wanda” had on their lives. “I’m going off to (the University of California, Santa Barbara) in September and I’m going to be minoring in music and I think that probably wouldn’t be the case if it weren’t for Wanda… (she’s) had such a large impact on all of us, and potentially the rest of my career and life,” said former student, Garrett Post.
Ms. Wanda began working in 1994 as a music enrichment teacher funded by the school’s PTA. She taught many of her students in private lessons throughout her career at Montclair. She. became a full-time teacher at the school more than 10 years ago.
Former student Meghan Forrest described how even recently in high school, years after taking Ms. Wanda’s class, she and her friends would sing songs that they learned in her class, simply because the songs reminded them of her.
“Because she was so full of life and spirit, I think that’s why I amongst many of us I’m sure were so surprised and saddened to hear of her passing… She was just such a joyous person, and she loved what she did. She was the one person who made me feel good about my singing, which is not the best. And she made me feel comfortable, and she made me feel like I was a rock star… She was an amazing wonderful teacher and spirit.”
OUSD Board of Education Director Nina Senn, whose children took Ms. Wanda’s classes, said, “Children know when a teacher loves them, and Miss Wanda loved every single one of her students. Joyful, fun, wise and inspiring to hundreds of lucky children, peers and families. She now has the wings we always knew she had.”
Some of Ms. Wanda’s family members were in the audience, including her niece, Che Abram. “Growing up with her, I never saw her upset, I never saw her flustered. She never got mad. Never. I never saw that side of her. Very encouraging, very supportive. She was pretty awesome.”
“When you come (here), and you see so many people who she inspired and encouraged, and boosted their confidence, you just know there’s no way that she could ever be forgotten. When she passed away my biggest hope was that her legacy would live on. And it does,” said Abram