Elementary school in Porterville raising money to honor teacher who recently passed away

PORTERVILLE, Calif. (KFSN) -- A touching story of remembrance out of the South Valley as a Porterville elementary school is trying to honor one of their teachers who recently passed away.

On the Porterville Unified Facebook page, they announced that they are holding a fundraiser at Santa Fe Elementary to install a bench to honor Heidi Newlin Gutierrez who recently passed away. The Bench will read "Mrs. Gutierrez's Superstar Readers" and will be placed on campus.

Gutierrez battled cancer for nine years and passed away the first week of October, officials said. Porterville Unified Public Information Officer Jason Pommier said she was well known in the community and loved by all who knew her.

Principal Julissa Leyva said that Gutierrez was a 3rd-grade teacher who had worked 21 years in education.

"She will be remembered for her beautiful smile and for her love of teaching. She came to work and never complained about the pain she was going through. She was an amazing teacher and a mother of 4 beautiful children," Leyva said.

Leyva said they have so far raised $240 of their $1,500 goal. Any extra money will be donated to TEAM Heidi Scholarship fund for high school students going to college who give out several $500 scholarships each year.

Donations to help construct the bench can be turned in at Santa Fe Elementary School, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Officials ask for you to make checks payable to PUSD and in the memo field write "Heidi Gutierrez's Bench." You can also donate online here.

Leyva said that Todd Coons, an Ag teacher at Porterville High School, and his students will be building the bench. The district's painter, Helen Villarreal, will be donating labor and paint to paint the bench a glittery red to mimic Gutierrez's favorite movie, "Wizard of OZ", and Dorothy's ruby red slippers.

Since being posted on Facebook the post has been shared over 100 times.
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