JAY — A Spruce Mountain Middle School math teacher was being remembered Wednesday for challenging her students to do the best they could and caring about them far beyond the math lessons.

Regional School Unit 73 and the community are mourning the loss of Kellee Fortier, 46, of Jay, who died suddenly Tuesday of natural causes.

She was remembered as an advocate for students and their education, for her kind soul and for being a wonderful teacher and person.

Fortier was a seventh- and eighth-grade math teacher. She previously taught fifth- and sixth-grade math for the Jay School Department prior to Jay, Livermore and Livermore Falls consolidating into RSU 73 in 2011.

Fortier also coached cheerleaders for many years for the Area Youth Sports program and the middle and high schools. Her mother, Rosie Richmond of Jay, co-coached with her.

“Kellee was my fifth/sixth-grade math teacher as well as my ‘adviser’ for fifth and sixth grade,” former student Hannah Chaney, 21, of Livermore said in an email. “She was the most kindhearted woman. She not only made sure we did the best we could, but also taught us in individualized ways to make sure we all learned what she was teaching. I still have the Christmas ornaments we made with her to bring home to our parents all those years ago.”

Chaney and Fortier’s daughter, Hayley, grew up together and graduated from Spruce Mountain High School in 2013.

“Hayley and I took dance classes together,” Chaney said. “There were many times my mother (a registered nurse) would be working and unable to take me to dance classes. Kellee never hesitated to bring me to dance class when my mother was working.

“She had a beautiful soul and this community is suffering a great loss from losing her,” Chaney said. “I will never forget how happy she always was to help anyone who needed it.”

RSU 73 Superintendent Kenneth Healey said in an email, “Kellee was one of Spruce Mountain’s shining stars. Her ready smile, personal warmth and professional dedication will be sorely missed by all of those who have had the privilege to interact with her. I know that I speak for the entire Spruce Mountain School District family in expressing our heart-felt condolences to the Fortier family.”

Middle School Principal Scott Albert said Fortier taught in the school system for more than 15 years.

“She was wonderful at everything she did,” he said. “She was a wonderful person, a wonderful teacher.”

Albert said that as far as replacing her in the classroom, “I know I can hire a good math teacher … but I will never be able to replace Kellee Fortier.”

Fellow teacher Colleen Shink said in an email that “there are no words strong enough or good enough for Kellee.”

“Kellee was the absolute best,” Shink wrote. “She was a teacher who understood each child as an individual and celebrated their uniqueness. She took each student right where they were at and helped them grow to their potential, not by just teaching them math but teaching them how valuable they were to this world.

“She was one of the finest and most dedicated teachers I know. As a friend, Kellee was undeniably a kind soul with a pure heart. She loved completely, laughed deeply and made you feel that same joy just being around her. As a wife and mother no one could do it better. Her family was her life and I know they felt that every single day.

“I am honored that I could call her my very dear friend,” Shink wrote. “She left us all with not only great memories but lessons on how to live, treat others and embrace the things you love in this life. She will be greatly missed by so many that loved her. I wish I had words enough to express the amazing woman, wife, mother, teacher and friend that she was.” 

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