After Douglas County teacher passes away, family raises money for students

DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. — Stacey Vandekoppel, a Douglas County High School teacher passed away from a brain tumor on Oct. 14.

Her absence is being felt by the entire community.

“It’s going to be tough — an amazing individual, exceptional teacher, loved by all,” said DCHS Principal Tony Kappas.

Vandekoppel, 52, was diagnosed with a brain tumor in July 2017.  An immediate operation slowed the progress of the tumor, but not stop it from eventually becoming fatal.

“Such a representation of what a true teacher, coach and mentor really is,” said Rick Vandekoppel, Stacey’s husband. “Whenever somebody would say a negative comment, she would always say, ‘You have to say something positive’.”

Rick and Stacey had been married for 28 years and have two children, Kelly and Quinn.

“She was a really huge impact on my life. Obviously, she’s the best mom I could ever ask for,” said Kelly.

“We used to love going to the Rockies games as a family. She was just everything to me,” said Quinn.

In addition to being a wife, mother and teacher, Vandekoppel loved swimming — both doing it and teaching it.

“She had her foundation starting at a very young age in a pool. A fish in water,” said Rick Vandekoppel.

Whether Vandekoppel was teaching her kids lessons in life or teaching people how to swim, she left an impression.  A former student writes, as read by Rick Vandekoppel: “I found myself sitting in almost every class — even physics or chemistry — at one point or another, specifically thinking, ‘Thank you, Mrs. Vandekoppel for already teaching me this.'”

The Vandekoppel family has created a nonprofit website dedicated to helping students who are inspired to become teachers or coaches.