Students, staff and family members celebrated the life of Albina “Albie” Lopez, former assistant principal at Berta Cabaza Middle School, with a tree planting ceremony on what would’ve marked her 54th birthday.

The 2015-2016 school year started without the presence of Lopez, who passed away on Aug. 9, 2015. Although she’s been gone for the past several months, she left a lasting impression during her career in the district, and for this reason, students and staff held a special event designed to keep her memory alive.

The ceremony also served two-fold, being that the school took time to observe Arbor Day.

Travis and Sheila Bence from Bence Nursery donated an Encino (oak) tree for the ceremony, according to teacher Cynthia Zartuche Manrrique.

Special guests included family members and former co-workers; representatives of the Valley Proud Environmental Council and their national “spokescrab,” Captain Crab; members of The Master Gardener Association of Cameron County; and representatives of The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

Lopez began working as a teacher in the district in 1989. She also served as the GEAR UP coordinator for two years and spent eight years as the school’s assistant principal.

Principal Lupita Monsevalles said, “Ms. Lopez made a difference in the lives of many children and adults. Many were blessed to have had the privilege and honor of having had her as an incredible friend, teacher, coach, and principal.”

Monsevalles explained that the school reached over 28,000 people when they posted a message about her passing on the school’s Facebook page.

“That alone is an indication of her legacy etched into the hearts of tens of thousands,” Monsevalles said.

Her daughter, Naissa Lopez, said that one of the most important things in her life was her occupation as an educator.

“Her job and her family meant the world to her. My mom loved her job. She wanted to become an assistant principal. When somebody loves their job, you can feel it. She was always willing to listen to someone. I think that’s why the kids would gravitate towards her,” she said.

Lopez, grateful at the school’s gesture, appreciates the efforts of students and staff.

“I am completely overwhelmed. The tree will be there for many years and serve as a constant reminder of her presence,” she said. “She would’ve loved this. She was my hero. I always loved her as my superhero.”

Manrrique said that the longtime teacher and administrator – still loved and remembered by so many – would never be forgotten.

“She was so loved and respected by many people,” she said.

Students, staff and family are looking forward to seeing the tree mature with each passing year, as it stands to serve as a constant reminder about the contributions she left behind.