West Jordan Middle students pay tribute to teacher
Bienvenido “Bien” Flores had a ready smile that lit up the halls and computer room of West Jordan Middle School.
“He was quite popular with the students,” said Timothy Brooks, West Jordan Middle Assistant Principal. “He was a good teacher—very kind, with never a critical word to anybody.”
Aloha Reynolds, Flores’ daughter, said, “My father has always been a teacher. . . He very much enjoyed it.” In junior high, she took one of her father’s classes. What she experienced and heard from peers was that he had a very refreshing way of teaching. “He had a sense of humor,” she said. “He always smiled and was rarely cranky.”
Flores seemed a permanent fixture to the approximately 970 middle school students who were required at some point to take one of his CTE classes. But in late September of 2012, he was unexpectedly diagnosed with cancer and had to go on medical leave.
The outpouring of love and support from WJMS was “very sweet,” Reynolds said. They made a huge banner covered in well wishes from students. The school also filled a large box with Get Well cards. Reynolds remembered one particular card that said, “We’re waiting for you to come back. Until then, we’ll just keep typing.”
Flores began chemotherapy in October, but lost the fight with the disease and passed away just three months later on Jan. 31.
Flores’ passing deeply impacted the students of WJMS, particularly those in ninth grade, Brooks said. Immediately, students wanted to do something to pay tribute to one of their favorite teachers. The school administration took suggestions and held a vote on the ideas.
On Feb. 6, the entire student body and faculty gathered on a snow-covered field outside the school in the shape of a giant heart. Lifetouch Photography then snapped the picture from atop a crane.
“It took some finagling to get this done,” Brooks said. He expected it the process to take a long time, but to his surprise, it took only twelve minutes.
Lifetouch enlarged the photo to poster-size to present to the Flores family. The school also sold 5X7 copies of the picture and raised about $1500, which they donated to help with funeral expenses.
Reynolds shared that the school sent the family a huge floral arrangement containing her father’s favorite flower—Bird of Paradise. She didn’t know if they knew it was his favorite flower, but it was very meaningful.
Students also folded dozens of colorful origami cranes. The family displayed them at the funeral, and then everyone who came to the internment dropped a paper crane over the casket, instead of a more traditional flower, as a symbol of teaching being such a large part of Flores’ life.
And by the response from the students of West Jordan Middle, Flores was a large part of their lives as well.
Reynolds grew tearful as she spoke of WJMS. “It was very overwhelming to see their outpouring of kindness and concern for our family,” she said. “I was glad that my dad was surrounded by such great teachers and students.”