Canton High School staff and students are mourning the loss of a long-time teacher this week.
Tuesday morning, Paul Kalasnik, 60, lost his battle with cancer after undergoing an operation Monday.
Kalasnik, who according to his obituary served in the Navy during the Vietnam War, was most recently the student study center coordinator at the high school. He also served as a paraprofessional and for some 19 years was an English teacher, first at Regional School District 10 in Burlington, then in Canton.
Students and teachers said Kalasnik was a soft-spoken, fair and dedicated teacher often seen with coffee cup in hand. He continued coming to work despite intense physical pain.
“Everyone respected him and enjoyed his presence,” said high school senior Dylan Smith.
Smith called Kalasnik a mentor and said he talked to kids about everything, from his days in the service to a previous night’s basketball game to the latest Hollywood movie. He said Kalasnik was someone he could go to with problems in his life, as well.
“All the kids loved him,” said Artie Conant, a 1993 graduate and now a custodian at the school. “He was just a fair guy.”
“He always had a kind word to say about every student he worked with,” said special education teacher Melissa Cook.
Irene Urko, director of guidance, agreed and said it was with good reason the high school yearbooks were dedicated to Kalasnik on so many occasions.
Administrative Assistant Lorene Chellgren reiterated the students' love for Kalasnik. She was also impressed with his dedication, despite his struggles.
“He was determined to fight it and not let it get him down,” she said.
Principal Gary Gula called Kalasnik a “gentle soul” who inspired people to remember the important things in life.
“He was a real trooper – a real fighter and in so many ways an inspiration to everyone,” Gula said.
Assistant Principal Sashi Govin said Kalasnik persevered because of his connection with the students.
“He felt it was important for him to be here,” she said.
Staff at the school hope to schedule some type of event to honor Kalasnik and plan to talk about that when school resumes Monday.