About 100 students, faculty and friends gathered Saturday afternoon on the North Dallas High baseball field to pay tribute to former teacher Tammy Kokotkiewicz, who was known as Ms. K or Tammy. But then some dark rain clouds moved in, and after the purple and white balloons were released, everyone moved into the cafeteria to continue the program.
Students and faculty shared their memories of Ms. K, who was a freshman English teacher and was slated to be the drill team sponsor this coming year. While only at North Dallas for one year, she made a big impact on everyone she met with her smile, friendly attitude and words of encouragement.
Ms. K and her husband, Jacob Kokotkiewicz, were found dead June 29 in apparent murder-suicide on Interstate 40 outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“Everyone always says it takes a village to raise a child. She was definitely part of the village,” said assistant principal Rodney Whitaker. “She was one of the crucial parts of that village. In one year, she got the attention of all the students that you see here. She’ll be missed but definitely will not be forgotten.”
Senior Kathy Nguyen, who played on the softball team, remembered how she’d go for a run around the field after a workout.
“And as she gets closer to the softball team, she throws her fist into the air, and screams “go Lady Bulldogs!” and “si se puede” for our non-English speakers,” Kathy said.
Student Angelica SanRoman recalled how she was “very excited” to be involved with the Vikingettes next year. She even went to San Antonio to cheer for the ND drill team. And she helped make posters and made brownies for the girls.
“She was a beautiful teacher,” Angelica said. “She really was amazing.”
Student Don’Tavious James said: “When I met her, in one of our first real conversations, I told her about my plans, and she was so excited. She was so supportive. We talked sometimes about ideas. She was like somebody I already knew, but I never knew her before. It was so crazy. Instead of saying, ‘How are you going to do this?’ she was like ‘You can do this.’ … She looked out for us. She was always there when we wanted to talk to her. I just have to understand and thank God for the time I had with her.”
Roberto, who couldn’t attend but sent a message, said, “We all love you Ms. K. You will never leave our hearts.”
“Her impact in the community will not be forgotten,” said girls soccer Coach William Prussack. “Her passion made a difference in everybody’s lives.”
Teacher Christina Herrera remembers Ms. K working out with her under the guidance of Coach Cortney Billingsley.
“She was a great motivator. Sometimes when I really wanted to give up. She knew I had struggles too. She would tell me, ‘Herrera, don’t give up’ with tears rolling down my face. I wasn’t going to give up. I could hear her on the side, ‘don’t give up.’ You guys know, watching us, watching Coach B kick our butts. That’s definitely something I’m going to take with me.”
One student talked about how she gave Ms. K a hard time in class. “She said she knew I was better than that,” she said with a pause.
Nguyen, vice president of the senior class, summed it up:
“We can all admit she was only here for a short while. She was only teaching at ND for a year, but within a year she built close relationships with her peers. Within a year, she became a Bulldog. She became one of us. And because of that she will remain a Bulldog. Once a Bulldog, always a Bulldog.”
Pastor Lorenzo Brown of Central Dallas Church
Pastor Shawn Torres of Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church