This community continues to amaze me. In a time of great need, the support that flooded the Nevada Union High School campus was an indication of what I sensed when I came to accept the position as superintendent of the Nevada Joint Union High School District. I want to thank the entire community for its support of our students and staff at the passing of our beloved teacher, mentor and friend, Craig Zetterberg.
What happened on campus the week following Craig’s death was nothing but noble.
Counselors, community faith leaders and mental health professionals gathered at NU on Monday, March 17, to work with students and staff members who needed support and to create a safe space for the grieving process to begin. Mr. Zetterberg’s room, where he taught history, was kept open so people could come in and write their thoughts on the board, and within a few short hours it was covered with notes of respect, love and friendship.
The students would have made “Z” especially proud last week. Tuesday and Wednesday the high school exit exam took place — a rigorous test under the best of situations. Craig Zetterberg would have said, “No excuses, just do your best.”
The students rallied: “Our teachers prepared us and we are ready for this test,” and they were focused and had the attitude that they would do their best.
One student created a Facebook page, “Letters for Zetterberg,” that received over 1,000 likes in a single day.
A parent set up a “gofundme” website to assist the family with expenses.
Next came the idea to honor Craig by having the entire staff wear the same “We are N.U.!” T-shirts at the memorial assembly. Individual donors came forward with no hesitation when asked to help fund this visual display of gratitude for what Craig gave to each person he met.
On Friday, March 21, Pete Totoonchie and the NU leadership team created an hour-long assembly that gave everyone a chance to remember Mr. Zetterberg. The program was thoughtfully put together with video, staff and student testimonials and even a special beach ball toss and cheer from “Zeus’s” girls water polo team. Audience members were invited to write a note about Craig on a card with the letter Z on it. Thousands of hand-stenciled Z letters were given out and ultimately will make their way to the Zetterberg family.
Staff and students talked about “Z-isms, some of Craig’s favorite sayings. The memorial assembly closed with everyone arm in arm, singing the alma mater just the way Craig would have wanted us to.
One of my favorite memories of Craig was during the Education Summit 2020 Vision committee meeting. I can clearly see Craig and the teacher team laying out our “big, hairy, audacious goal” for student performance. Academic performance goals came straight out of our teacher team.
Craig was, and is, an instrumental part of moving us along the path to our vision.
We never know how we touch other people’s lives with just the smallest thing. Craig suggested that some staff take a trip to Beale Air Force Base to let those families know what NU has to offer. Craig had a water polo match that day, but I headed down to Beale with Jeff Dellis and Mitch Giles. This was all Craig’s idea and today we are getting interest from those families. That small moment in time was his, and now we get to see the ripple effect through the years.
His legacy will live on in other ways. We are all being a little bit gentler with each other, students and staff. We are all assuming positive intent. We are all more willing to hold and uplift each other. I told the NU staff the Monday following our beloved teacher’s death:
“I know the journey that the family is about to embark upon. Everyone needs to grieve in their own way and their own time. But what I can tell you, as sure as I am standing here, is that love never dies.
“Craig Zetterberg will live on and on in the life of every student, parent and colleague he has touched. As students and staff process this, we will be there to support them.”
Thank you for supporting us.
Dr. Louise Johnson is superintendent of the Nevada Joint Union High School District.
His legacy will live on in other ways. We are all being a little bit gentler with each other, students, and staff. We are all assuming positive intent. We are all more willing to hold and uplift each other.