Teachers and friends knew if they needed something, Allisha Douglas would deliver. She had a knack for holding onto items that might be of use to someone in the future, and her car, garage and house served as storage for random objects.
Likewise for getting things done. If a student was in need of extra attention or an Individual Education Program, it was good to have Douglas on their side.
Colleagues, friends, former students and family gathered Wednesday, Jan. 24, to plant a pink trumpet tree on the campus of SunRidge Elementary in memory of the devoted second-grade teacher who died last summer of leukemia.
Douglas, 46, of Winter Garden, learned she had cancer in April 2022 and fought it for 15 months. Even while she was in the hospital or recovering at home, she was thinking of her students, said Paul Caswell, a kindergarten teacher at SunRidge. She often wrote grants, as well as letters of recommendation for former students.
“I can honestly say I’ve never met anyone else as giving as her,” Caswell said.
Douglas was named Teacher of the Year twice in her career, which included teaching stints at Sunset Park and Pine Hills elementary schools as well.
If there was an event involving her students, Douglas was there, including ceremonies and after-school events.
Melanie Alday taught across the hall from Douglas and often saw her taking her students outdoors to “experience the lesson,” especially if it was science. Douglas thought the best way to learn about something was through means other than a textbook.
“They were always outside,” Alday said. “She was always having someone come in for something, always having a guest speaker.”
In addition to looking out for students at school, Douglas also served as executive director for S.T.A.R.S. of West Orange, a nonprofit organization that gives backpacks and school supplies to needy children. She delivered food and clothing to families in the area and ran a food pantry at SunRidge.
“She was never cheap, but she was very frugal … very resourceful,” Caswell said. “She could take a dollar and turn it into $100. Or she’d say, ‘Well, it’s for the kids.’ She was doing that constantly, whether it was for S.T.A.R.S. or for the school. She was always, always, always doing something for other people.”
Douglas’ husband, Lee, is trying to carry on her passion for helping others. The couple, who met through mutual friends and were married 20 years, volunteered together regularly.
“She loved it; it was her passion,” he said. “She was very warm, giving. Everything was about helping others more than herself.”
When the couple wasn’t volunteering, they were traveling, mostly on cruises to the Bahamas and the Caribbean. They enjoyed going to see movies and Broadway shows, too, and were regular vistors to the Disney theme parks.
Douglas also is survived by one child, Emily.
MESSAGE OF APPRECIATION
At the memorial tree planting, middle-schooler Anthony Marinelli, one of Allisha Douglas’ former second-graders, read a message he wrote.
“Dear Mrs. Douglas, it’s hard to believe you are gone. I’m so glad you are not suffering in pain anymore. You were my favorite teacher of all time! You taught me a lot about empathy, you taught me how to be the best version of myself, you taught me that I can be whoever I want to be and do whatever I want to do. You helped shape me into who I am and who I will be.
“Before you passed, I wanted to tell you how important you were to me, but I couldn’t find the words. Over the years, I have had amazing memories in your class. Some of (them are) being able to meet an airplane pilot, a K-gunner, when I was in your class. My favorite memories outside the classroom were helping the less fortunate, game night and Legoland.
“You have made an impact on my life, and for that I am forever grateful!”
Anthony’s mother, Christina Quetel, said Douglas fought for Anthony’s education and worked tirelessly to get him an Individualized Education Program. Even after Anthony moved on to higher grades, Douglas kept in touch with Anthony and his family and often invited them to game nights.
Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.