Natchez Middle School teacher remembered for energy, passion

Published 5:03 pm Tuesday, March 28, 2023

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NATCHEZ — The Natchez Adams School District opened a Tuesday morning special-called meeting with a prayer for a teacher who has died.

Christine Martin-Krize, a newlywed as of January 2023, taught seventh-grade science at Natchez Middle School. Many teachers and students still referred to her as “Ms. Martin.”

She was the fourth teacher with the district who has passed away this school year.

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Krize texted Principal Orisha Mims on Monday and said she not feeling well before she died later that day, school officials said.

When Krize had been asked when she might return to work, she responded, “prayerfully tomorrow,” according to her friend and coworker Elizabeth Greer.

“There’s peace in knowing she was passionate about her faith,” Greer said.

Krize was a dedicated member of Jefferson Street United Methodist Church, where she also taught Sunday school. She taught in her home city of McComb prior to coming to work at Natchez Adams School District, where she has taught for the past nine years. Before that, she was also a nurse and was often called on for medical advice at the school whenever a school nurse was not available.

Martin was named Robert Lewis Magnet School Teacher of the Year in 2022.

She has been described by many as “passionate and energetic.”

“She was full of life and a guru of science,” said a fellow teacher, Kendra Williams.

Mims said all of Krize’s students were called into the gymnasium on Tuesday morning to hear the news, for those who didn’t already know. They were met by the district’s crisis response team, comprised of school social workers and the dropout prevention coordinator, who provide grief counseling services. They will likely remain on the middle and high school campuses for the remainder of the week to be ready to assist when needed, Mims said.

“The teachers are taking it harder than the students,” said Superintendent Fred Butcher during Tuesday’s meeting after he had just finished visiting the school.

One such teacher was Vickie Jowers, who befriended Krize during the years they both taught at Robert Lewis before the consolidation of middle schools.

“She loved what she did, loved the kids and loved teaching,” Jowers said. “She was our go-to person any emergency whenever we had no nurse. She was very knowledgeable.”

Latanya Dunbar, who was a principal at Robert Lewis when Krize was teaching there, said she was surprised by her unorthodox and “carefree” teaching methods.

“It was unique,” she said. “We will definitely miss her.”

Her coworker Eckwanise Fields described how she would engage students with hands-on experiments and did so comfortably, sometimes removing her shoes and sitting on top of desks. Tony Fields said that back when he was principal at Natchez High School in 2015, he called on Krize from Robert Lewis to teach two advanced placement classes at the high school.

“She taught in whatever way she could to get across to her students and wouldn’t move forward until they understood,” said Celeste Kinds, middle school social studies teacher. “If any were struggling, she would make arrangements with parents to stay with them after school or early in the morning and taught them one-on-one. That’s just who she was.”

Greer said her passion came home with her. She went to Krize’s home Monday and found the chart with her learning targets, student data, lesson plan and all of her “teaching tools” spread out in a semi-circle around an empty space on the floor where Krize must have sat Sunday preparing for Monday’s lesson. The most-recent student assessment data sat on her dining room table.

“She was full-throttle and all-in with whatever she was passionate about and that definitely included education and her students,” Greer said.

Apart from teaching, Krize loved to garden and was an avid bridge player just like her mother, Sue Boyd. She leaves behind her husband Gary Krize, a son and daughter, a grandson named Zane and a “very large but very sweet rottweiler named Draco,” she said.

Phyllis Lewellyn, who grew close to Krize through their church, said Krize loved all her children both at church and school and her grandson dearly. When Christine and Gary Krize were married in January after a seven years long relationship, Phyllis’s husband Dennis Lewellyn performed the ceremony.

“Those kids were her life,” Lewellyn said. “Teaching was a second career for her and she loved it. … She was a fine, Christian lady.”