CARBONDALE — Students and staff at Roaring Fork High School and throughout the Carbondale community were saddened to hear over the holiday break that longtime teacher and RFHS graduate Ivone Munoz had lost her battle with cancer.
A Carbondale native, Munoz had most recently taught English Language Learner (ELL) students at RFHS, and had been a teacher’s aide and classroom teacher in the local schools since shortly after graduating from RFHS in 1990.
She died on Friday at the age of 40, after battling cancer of the kidney that had spread to her lungs.
“It’s a loss to the whole school community, and to everyone that knew her,” said RFHS Principal Drew Adams. “So many of our students and staff members had been pulling for her and helping her through this challenge, and we were hoping she would be able to pull through and come back and join us.”
In October, as a show of moral support for Munoz and to raise money to help with her medical expenses, dozens of students, fellow teachers and staff shaved their heads. Other fundraisers were held when she was first diagnosed with cancer in 2012 and missed part of last school year.
A funeral mass and memorial service is planned for 11 a.m. today at RFHS in the gymnasium, followed by a potluck gathering in the school auditeria.
Adams said RFHS Assistant Principal Barbara Mason visited Munoz the day she died.
“She related to me that Ivone was very gracious right up to the very end, thanking everyone for their support,” Adams said. “That just shows the type of person Ivone was, she was so considerate of everyone else and gracious to everyone around her.”
Like Munoz, longtime RFHS teacher and coach Larry Williams came back to his alma mater to teach after graduating himself in the mid-1970s. Williams had Munoz as a student and as a member of the first freshman girls basketball team he coached in the late 1980s.
“It’s just tragic anytime someone loses their life at such a young age, and especially a mother with four kids,” Williams said.
Munoz is survived by her children Kathy, Saulo, Lindsy and Isabela Vega, two of whom are still attending Carbondale schools.
“She had such an impact not only on the students, but everyone she worked with here,” Williams said. “She was an advocate for all the kids, and especially the English language learners. She empowered them to succeed and to feel secure in school.
“As a teacher, I will miss her smile walking by my classroom every day,” Williams added.
And as a coach, he said he’ll always remember a talented young athlete with a long pony tail and a “sense of determination carried with her throughout her life.”
Munoz was born Jan. 10, 1973, in Carbondale, where four generations of her immigrant family had called home. After dropping out of high school at age 16 to get married, she was convinced by some of her teachers to complete her schooling and go into teaching.
She eventually earned her bachelor’s degree from Regis University and a master’s from Grand Canyon University, all while raising a family.
A complete obituary appears on page 6 of today’s Post Independent.