At Montclair Elementary School Oakland, More than one-hundred students, families and staff members met on Wednesday evening, August 15, 2018 to honor Wanda Redman-Eklund who recently passed away. Wanda Redman-Eklund had taught music at Montclair Elementary School for decades before retiring at the end of the 2016-17 school year. Just one year later, on July 23, she lost her battle with gallbladder cancer at age 71.
One after another, Wanda Redman-Eklund’s friends, fellow teachers and former students stood up – many of them fighting back tears – and talked about the impact that “Ms. Wanda” had on their lives. “I’m going off to (the University of California, Santa Barbara) in September and I’m going to be minoring in music and I think that probably wouldn’t be the case if it weren’t for Wanda… (she’s) had such a large impact on all of us, and potentially the rest of my career and life,” said former student, Garrett Post.
Wanda Redman-Eklund’s, or “Ms. Wanda” started off in 1994 as a music enrichment teacher funded by the school’s PTA. She taught many of her students in private lessons throughout her career at Montclair. Ms. Wanda became a full-time teacher at the school more than ten years ago.
Former student Meghan Forrest described how even recently in high school, years after taking Ms. Wanda’s class, she and her friends would sing songs that they learned in her class, simply because the songs reminded them of her. “Because she was so full of life and spirit, I think that’s why I amongst many of us I’m sure were so surprised and saddened to hear of her passing… She was just such a joyous person and she loved what she did. She was the one person who made me feel good about my singing, which is not the best. And she made me feel comfortable, and she made me feel like I was a rock star… She was an amazing wonderful teacher and spirit.”
Former student Harrison Jenkins said, “It was so much fun. I took lessons with her for six years. Ms. Wanda, she wasn’t just a teacher, she was a family friend… we got really close. I’m just sorry I had to stop my lessons, and I’m sorry this happened to her just a year after retiring.”
“She’s a really amazing teacher because she makes such a special bond with all of her students. She’s one of the main reasons I was able to break out of my shell… and I really hope all of you will remember the amazing person that she was,” said former student, Veronica Jordan.
OUSD Board of Education Director Nina Senn, whose children took Ms. Wanda’s classes, said, “Children know when a teacher loves them and Miss Wanda loved every single one of her students. Joyful, fun, wise and inspiring to hundreds of lucky children, peers and families. She now has the wings we always knew she had.”
Some of Ms. Wanda’s family members were in the audience, including her niece, Che Abram. “Growing up with her, I never saw her upset, I never saw her flustered. She never got mad. Never. I never saw that side of her. Very encouraging, very supportive. She was pretty awesome.”
Abram struggled to keep her composure as she talked about seeing her aunt’s former students sharing so much love for her. “It was very emotional. There’s a part of you that wonders if she will be forgotten, because people pass on and people forget. But when you come and you see so many people who she inspired and encouraged, and boosted their confidence, you just know there’s no way that she could ever be forgotten. When she passed away my biggest hope was that her legacy would live on. And it does.”
The celebration of life ended with a group singalong of one of their favorite songs that Ms. Wanda taught them, “Do you know Blitzen.” At the end of the song (below), everyone threw confetti into the air in Ms. Wanda’s honor.
(Note: this post is based on a press release written by John Sasaki of Oakland Unified School District. It was adjusted for SEO objectives.)