By Nick Stern, Managing Editor | Photo courtesy of Erica Volkers
Full-time Education Faculty member, Joanne Zakrzewski, passed away on January 10 from a sudden brain aneurysm at the age of 42.
Zakrzewski is survived by her three children, and husband, who the Chronicle sends our sincere condolences.
Zakrzewski was born Oct. 27, 1971 in Manilla, Philippines and came to America in 1986.
Zakrzewski was a faculty member in the School of Communication, Humanities, and Social Sciences since September 2004, according to the CNM Media and Communications office.
Colleagues and friends of Zakrzewski were invited to visit the family home Wednesday, Jan. 15, Friday, Jan. 17 to pay their respects and to remember a fallen associate.
A student poster on rate my professor said about Zakrzewski, “I am so sad to inform all of you that Joanne passed away of a brain aneurysm. I was in her Educational Psychology class. She was a fantastic teacher, easy listener, and allowed everyone’s opinions to be heard. I am so sorry for this tragedy and I hope she is remembered in light.”
Full-time Instructor, Andrea Olguin said Zakrzewski’s time with CNM allowed her to touch many people’s lives in many different ways, and these people are all better off for knowing her.
“She was an incredible friend and will be greatly missed by everyone, honestly I am better for knowing her and I am just honored to have called her a friend,” Olguin said.
She did not just have an effect on students and colleagues, but rather everyone she ever came into contact with was affected by her great personality, she said.
Dean of CHSS, Erica Volkers said Zakrzewski was extremely passionate about education and has changed and inspired many of her students in many different ways, but always for the better.
“Many of the students would say that Joanne had an impact on their lives whether it was because she helped them navigate the challenges of work and home with school, engaged them in the joy of learning, or went the extra mile to support their success in class,” Volkers said.
Zakrzewski initially taught in the childhood program and later began teaching in the alternative teacher licensure program, she said.
Zakrzewski had a pivotal role in developing essential programs and was an incredible teacher who was supportive and loved working with the diverse students at CNM, she said.
“I would say her legacy to CNM was the social work program in which we now have over 500 students pursuing this degree/career pathway. I think her greatest gift to CNM was her role in the classroom as a teacher. I know she touched the lives of many students at CNM. Her evaluations were always filled with comments about how wonderful she was as an instructor,” she said.
Volkers said that Zakrzewski had six younger siblings who she was very close to and she was also regarded as the “mother hen” because she kept the family close and connected, also pushing her siblings to pursue their own educations.
Volkers also said that Zakrzewski always gathered her immediate family of her husband and three children aged 3, twelve, and nineteen around the kitchen table at least a couple times a week, she said.
She was a very approachable and warm person who was very easy to talk to, she said.
“Joanne had an incredible smile that lit up her face and commanded joy and warmth to those she interacted with,” Volkers said.
Before working for CNM Zakrzewski was a student in Olguin’s class, and said that she had created a pivotal moment in the development of Olguin as a teacher, she said.
Zakrzewski was at the forefront of a small group of students who went up to Olguin and questioned her teaching methods, and explained how to improve those methods in a way that would benefit the students she taught, she said.
“It was at that moment that I truly changed my whole teaching philosophy and implemented a lot more projects and hands-on activities, and learning in the classroom. She was one of the bravest and most courageous people. She did not hesitate to question something and to change things that were clearly not working,” Olguin said.
Olguin said that she is battling cancer and believes that Zakrzewski’s passing is also the last lesson she passed along to others, she said.
After Zakrzewski’s life being cut so short like that, Olguin realized that she had no right to be angry or upset about her own situation because nothing in life is ever guaranteed, especially not life itself, she said.
Olguin said she also realized that tomorrow is never a guarantee for anyone, and Zakrzewski left her with the knowledge of just how precious life can really be in the whole scheme of things.
“I was devastated when I heard the news and I realized I have no right to complain about my situation. I have today and tomorrow is never guaranteed and I think that last lesson she gave me has really struck a very personal chord,” she said.
Olguin said Zakrzewski’s passing was very sudden and unexpected by everyone, and that she will be missed immensely.