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Remembering a courageous woman

Nancy Teicheira was the perfect personification of Ernest Hemingway’s definition of courage: “Grace under pressure.”

But, of course, the woman who rarely missed a Manteca Unified School District Board meeting in two decades — except when she buried her son, Daniel, who died in a tragic solo accident while he was a sophomore at Sierra High School — was so much more than that.

Never one to be easily fazed by any challenge that came her way, she was not afraid to buck the trend and be like an intrepid salmon going against the strongest current to reach its goal.

Her admirable qualities earned her the deep admiration and respect of people whose work and dedication to the education of the youth have been, like her, their life’s unflinching focus — as educators, elected school board officials, and supporters and advocates of youth in the community. They included, among many others, former MUSD board members Dale Fritchen and Ed Fichtner, San Joaquin County of Education School Board member Janet Dyk, and community observer/newspaper letter writer Karen Pearsall — all whom later became Teicheira’s good friends despite some disagreements on school and other issues.

Time after time, she manifested the supreme stern stuff that her feminine self was made of — as a farmer, as a wife and mother, as a cancer survivor, and a two-decade member of the school district Board of Trustees — all without having to overtly pump an angry fist in the air, or to raise an angry defensive or offensive voice but just to simply state the fact in an even voice.

When she was accused of attacking fellow board members for questioning the enforcement of board policies, for example, she valiantly and firmly stood her ground and publicly stated that she was just doing her job as an elected representative of the people she serves in the district.

And it didn’t matter if she was the proverbial lone ranger. During a board meeting in May 2018, she was the only one who voted against the district securing the service of an outside firm to the tune of about $32,000 to search for a permanent replacement of the then recently resigned superintendent, Jason Messer. At the same meeting, the board approved by a vote of 5-2 the appointment of then deputy superintendent Clark Burke as the interim district leader. Burke eventually took over the position of MUSD head, overseeing nearly 25,000 elementary and high school students in more than 30 school campuses in Manteca, Lathrop, French Camp, and south Stockton which comprise the district’s area.

She again went against the board majority when she voted against the 2014-2015 school year budget because of a $9 million deficit which was subsidized by the district’s general fund.

“Never spend more than what you get. Spend money when you get money from the state,” she said.

She again disagreed with the board when it came to Measure G, the school bond, going on the November ballot for much the same reasons. She didn’t mince words when she explained her position: “I’m for the safety of the kids,” she said, referring to the reasons behind the school bond money which, for the most part, was earmarked for keeping old schoolrooms safe by having them repaired up to code.

“I would have been for it (Measure G), but a lot of that” is for the district’s $30 million Going Digital project, she said, for which she held some reservations.

Insidious disease

She was diagnosed in 2000 with thymoma, a very rare form of cancer, for which she had to undergo chemotherapy treatments at Stanford Medical Center, not just once but about a half-dozen times. When the disease recurred in 2014, she was in the middle of re-election for her fifth term of office as representative eof Area 4 —which covers parts of the area south of Yosemite Avenue up to the Stanislaus River along South Airport Way.

As luck would have it, but more so as the reason behind her popularity among the voters she represented, no challenger came forward, saving her money and time (that she didn’t have much of for campaigning). Instead of pounding the pavements and knocking on doors to get the vote, she was able to use that energy to concentrate her fight against the insidious disease.

As a journalist, I gave Nancy the highest regard and respect, not just as an elected official but as an individual. She so generously and courageously shared her thoughts on many important, and even controversial issues. She never shirked from speaking honestly and frankly even while knowing how others on the opposite side of the debacle would most likely paint her in a negative light. As every newspaper reporter is very aware of, there are times when reaching a public official to get their comment especially on highly controversial issues was akin to pulling a tooth. I can’t remember a time when that was the case with Nancy. She was always honest, and made herself available to the news media.

One of the things I will always remember about Nancy happened at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Manteca. During the years my husband and I led the liturgy music at the 7 a.m. Sunday Mass, she always sat in the pew directly in front of us at the other side of the altar. I remember her sitting on the front pew between her husband Frank and her mother-in-law, with her sister-in-law in a wheelchair at the end of the seat. When we had to take an indefinite leave of absence as song leaders of the early Mass, she always posted a question on my Facebook page, asking when we were going back to lead the singing again. I will never forget her saying that she found our music “inspirational” and that it gave her comfort. On the contrary, SHE was our inspiration and comfort.

There was no measure to her kindness either. When she found out that I liked figs, she told me on Facebook that I was welcome to help myself to the fig tree on their dairy property since, she said, practically nobody helped themselves to the ripe fruits anyway! This was just very recently. I didn’t have the chance to thank her, and to give her a grateful response. I was very much under the impression she was going to be home soon from Stanford, as did many of her friends who exhibited the same shock upon hearing the sad news of her demise last Friday.

The final goodbye

A week before she breathed her last, she posted this (it turned out to be the last) on her Facebook page to her many friends, while she was still at Stanford Hospital: (Unedited.) July 20 at 12:34 AM.”Well im all about out of the hospital. Regular room172 hopefully im onmywayhome.”

She was, indeed, on her way home — to her eternal home, which happened a week later on Friday, July 27, 2019, the same month her son, Daniel, died in 2002, at age 16.

Four days before her final goodbye, she posted this special prayer on her Facebook page: “I will never be ashamed of my faith, nor my relationship with God. He is my Rock, my Refuge, my Comforter, my All and All. Amen.”

Rest in peace with our Loving Lord, Nancy.