Remembering Kimberly Hayes

Last Friday, the Riverside Brookfield community lost a great friend and devoted educator with the death of Kimberly Hayes, 58. Hayes, who moved to Florida following her 2019 retirement from RB, had been battling COVID-19 since this summer.  

Hayes, the beloved mother of two adult sons, was removed from life support at 3:05 PM Central Standard Time last Friday, October 1, 2021. The time which the respirator was turned off was a nod to Hayes’ time at RB, where students are always dismissed promptly at 3:05.

Spending the first 33 years of her teaching career at RB, Hayes maintained a strong connection with the RB community. During those 33 years, she moved to Brookfield, her house easily identified because of its vibrant purple paint job.

Known for her love of purple and a passion for literature, Hayes leaves behind a loving legacy with students and colleagues at RB alike. 

On Monday, October 4, Hayes’ death was announced to the RB student body. The former English teacher was honored with a moment of silence introduced by Wendy Cassens, English Department Instructional Coach and English teacher, a long-time colleague and close friend of Hayes.

Hayes and Cassens struck up a friendship quickly. From a personal perspective, Cassens describes Hayes as always being one step ahead of her and offering helpful advice about both teaching and motherhood.

“Ms. Hayes liked to use the phrase ‘seasons,’ like there were different seasons in your life. I was always a step behind her and she would offer in her most kind and supportive way, ‘Would you like to go get coffee?’ or ‘Would you like to have lunch today?’ And in that process, she was helping you sift through things that may have been troubling you,” Cassens said.

Hayes and Dave Monti, a long-time science teacher at RB, also had a close relationship. They first met in the fall of 1992 when Monti was a full-time teacher fighting, along with many other young teachers, to establish a contract. Monti remembers young, first-year teachers gathering in Hayes’ Hinsdale house, painting signs for a possible strike. Hayes’ attitude quickly endeared Monti towards her.

“She was always just so kind and so generous, very down to earth, and so we became friends,” Monti said.

When Hayes served as an Assistant Principal during the 2014-2015 school year, one of her responsibilities was to conduct teaching evaluations. 

“It was one of the most meaningful evaluations I ever had because it wasn’t about teaching science. It was about teaching. She didn’t have any familiarity with science, but she saw the things I did and how the kids responded to those things… It was really kind of neat to have someone from the outside not looking at the science, just looking at the teaching. It was one of the more meaningful discussions about what I do and what I could improve,” Monti said.

This was not a singular experience; Hayes was known for her growth mindset and positive approach to problems, always making time for discussion.

“She was a free spirit in many ways, and when you’re a free spirit, you don’t judge. You’re accepting of everybody,” Monti says, a common impression Hayes left.

Due to Hayes’ retirement in 2019, the senior class of 2022 was the last freshmen class at RB she taught before she left. Senior Brian Twomey was one of the many students Hayes taught and left a lasting impression on in the RB community. He was in her Honors English class when he was a freshman the year of her retirement.

“She [Hayes] molded me into the student I am today,” Twomey said. “She assisted me in maturing significantly.”

Hayes formed a special relationship with her freshman students that year. With that being the last year she would teach, she created exceptional bonds with her students through her unconditional love for teaching and education.

“Whenever I would walk in her room I would always get a warm welcome,” Twomey said. “I would walk in and we would joke about me coming down to Florida to see her in between periods because I would always come to see her throughout the day.”

There is no doubt that Hayes left a footprint at RB. She has taught students many lessons and has left behind lots of memories that will stick with her students and her beloved community forever.

“She taught me to always bring a positive attitude and constantly look on the bright side during every situation. Also to broaden your horizons… always be ready to become better and always learn from everything you can,” Twomey said.

Hayes’ wake, held on Thursday evening, was attended by multiple RB teachers, and a funeral procession drove by school this morning (October 8th).