Friends and family, co-workers and the children he taught in the Carlsbad Unified School District have not forgotten educator Stefan Edgerly, who died in 2016 at age 42.
They'll gather again to remember him at a fundraiser from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. April 12 for the scholarship fund established in his name. It takes place at Gregorio's restaurant at 300 Carlsbad Village Drive (in the Village Faire), which is donating 20 percent of all sales to the Edge Scholarship Fund for Carlsbad High School students.
Edgerly was an alumnus of the Carlsbad district, having been a student at Magnolia Elementary, Valley Middle and Carlsbad High schools. After graduating from Cal State San Marcos, he taught at Aviara Oaks Middle School after a couple of years teaching third grade at Pacific Rim Elementary. He handled many different subjects, including English and social studies, but he loved teaching art above all, said his mother, Sandra Hadder.
And he loved the kids. He went to their games, attended their events, gave them support. He was also involved in Where Everybody Matters (WEB), a program in which eighth-graders helped sixth-graders make a smooth transition to middle school.
"To me, he was the kind of guy who had a positive impact on everyone around him," said Bryan Brockett, Aviara Oaks principal at the time and now principal at Carlsbad High. "His impact expanded beyond the classroom. He was just a fun guy to be around."
Edgerly went back to school to get a second minor in art so he could pursue his dream of being an art teacher. But he was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer in March 2016, and underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
"We were blessed we were able to have him here and assist him," said Hadder. "He fought for six months — the most horrible six months. He was in such pain. But he had so much support."
The community, colleagues and the kids rallied, following his progress and posting positive, loving messages to the web page set up at posthope.org/stefans-journey.
"In September 2016, he was going to be the art teacher," recalled Hadder. "The principal brought Stefan the keys to the classroom and told him he was the art teacher, even though he wasn't able to do it. He got to sit in the classroom. But it was beyond obvious that this wasn't going to happen."
Stefan Edgerly died Oct. 14, 2016, at Scripps Memorial Hospital-Encinitas. "They took such good care of us," his mother said. "They gave him more care than we were able to give him. Stefan was such an infectious personality, such a gracious man to the end. The staff came to the funeral."
So did many of his students. "It was the most amazing thing," Hadder said. "These kids just poured their hearts out at the service. Losing a favorite teacher who's young was not to be expected. We did our best to try to help them through this."
The service was held on the Aviara Oaks campus, where family, former classmates, students and parents overflowed the 600 seats set up in the gym. Edgerly's family allowed the students to scrawl messages of love in marker on his truck; they also provided notepaper for them to write messages to "Edge" and his family.
"It was definitely a blow to the school," said Brockett. "We had families that had known him since he taught elementary school. He was loved by his colleagues."
Two teachers helped create the scholarship fund, launched with a fundraiser at That Pizza Place in Carlsbad. Two scholarships of $1,000 each were awarded. This year, Gregorio's restaurant will host the fundraiser.
"You look for ways to keep his spirit alive," said Hadder of her son. "It takes a very special person to be a middle school teacher. The kids are kind of struggling with their own inner beasts at that age. Stefan was perfect for middle school. And the parents loved him. He was so encouraging. He helped their kids get through."
Hadder recently shared one of the notes written by a student at the service: "I never had Mr. Edgerly as a teacher, but he was always as encouraging as humanly possible. He told me to chase my dreams; I could go to Princeton. He always said he would be the first to contribute to my college fund: $25. Mr. Edgerly has changed me forever."
Inspired by the note, Hadder reached out and contacted the student this month — and sent that check for $25.
"She DID have the grades to apply to Princeton!" Hadder reported in a subsequent email. "She didn't get accepted but she chased her dreams. Stefan would be SO proud!"
To donate, make check out to Carlsbad High School and put "Stefan Edgerly Scholarship Fund" in the memo line. Mail to Carlsbad High School, Attn. ASB Finance, 3557 Lancer Way, Carlsbad CA 92008.