Cherished, respected teacher loses life after long illnessNot long ago Patti Belfiori described the frustration of being deprived prematurely from the job she lived for.
By: Phil Pfuehler, River Falls Journal
Not long ago Patti Belfiori described the frustration of being deprived prematurely from the job she lived for.
“All my life I’ve wanted to be a good teacher,” she said.
Her teaching colleagues and generations of students and parents would likely give Belfiori more than a passing grade for her 32 years of teaching young teenagers.
Belfiori, 55, died at her home early Saturday morning following a two-year battle with cancer. She was diagnosed with a melanoma tumor in her sinus cavity. Despite extensive treatments, the cancer spread.
Belfiori was forced to retire as 8th grade Meyer Middle School language arts teacher after the first semester of the 2006-07 academic year.
“It was a shame I only got to work for her for a semester,” Principal Mike Johnson said. “In that brief time, however, it became very evident to me that Patti had a spirit and passion for kids. She touched a whole lot of people.”
It was that passion for kids that caused DeWayne Meyer, then the junior high principal for the school that would later bear his name, to hire Belfiori in 1974.
“She was nervous in our interview, but I sensed that she was very child-centered,” Meyer said Monday. “That was unique in those days because the system was ‘content-oriented.’ I looked for that approach, but it was seldom found until we became a middle school.”
Meyer said Belfiori, who lost her father to cancer, eventually looked to him as a father figure.
“After a meeting in my office when I might talk to her about things, she’d say, ‘OK, Dad, I got it.’”
Meyer, 79, retired as principal in 1992. He said Belfiori more than lived up to the faith he placed in her on that first day.
“She had that ability to encourage and praise her students, even those who were not that confident,” Meyer said. “And that’s an age group where self-esteem is always an issue. She got so many of her students to do the best they possibly could.
“Patti also related to the kids because she was an excellent listener. She didn’t preach at them.”
Meyer said Belfiori, affectionately known to many as “Ms. Bel,” was sincere and direct in her dealings with staff and students.
“She was simply a very dedicated teacher,” he said. “For her, the profession came first.”
Funeral and memorial services for Belfiori was Thursday afternoon at St. Bridget Catholic Church.
The Journal’s online story about Patti Belfiori at www.riverfallsjournal.com generated many comments:
- We will miss Ms. Bel!! She will ALWAYS be in our hearts for putting us next to each other in Lang. Arts class in the “old” junior high. Chris and I are together today all because of her. Thank you and we will think of you always. You are in our thoughts and prayers in this time.
- Goodbye, Patti, from the RFHS class ’70.
- Three of my children had Ms. Bell as a teacher during their middle school years. I always believed that Patti was truly committed to her students. She indeed will be missed!
- Ms. Bel was one of my favorite teachers. She will be missed.
- I am very, very sorry to hear this.
- I was in Patti’s first class at the old River Falls Junior High. She was a great teacher and really brought some fun into that school!! She will be missed.