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Honoring their friend

A trio of memorial projects will hardly do justice to the memory of a seventh-grade Medford teacher remembered for her passion for the outdoors and for teaching science, but those who knew her say it's at least a start.

Former Hedrick Middle School science teacher Katie MacDiarmid was killed Saturday, Dec. 19, in a car accident in California during a climbing trip.

The 31-year-old outdoor enthusiast had been part of the Medford School District for only two years, her colleagues say, but she left a lasting impression on fellow teachers and students.

Dubbed "Ms. Mac," MacDiarmid was "always squeezing every drop out of life," from dreaming up creative lesson plans to designing outdoor field trips at her favorite spot, the Denman Wildlife Area near White City, said Hedrick social studies teacher and friend Mary Noble.

A 2003 graduate of St. Mary’s School, MacDiarmid earned her bachelor’s degree in environmental science from the University of Oregon in 2007.

After college she spent several years leading at-risk youth on trail crews and outdoor adventures, teaching at outdoor schools in North Carolina, Oregon and Northern California, and spending a year in 2009 as a volunteer teacher in Cofradia, Honduras, through a school for Bilingual Education in Central America.

Aside from teaching, her time was spent climbing, running, kayaking and backpacking throughout the West and traveling the U.S. with family and friends.

Given her passion for science, rocking climbing and enjoying nature, a trio of projects have been offered up as memorials. Students and fellow teachers hope to see all three come to fruition.

The projects include a garden memorial — with some of MacDiarmid's favorite plants and a bench — in the Hedrick Middle School courtyard; a scholarship fund to help cover the cost of rock-climbing lessons for Hedrick Middle School students at Rogue Rock Gym in Medford; and a memorial bench at Denman.

"I just think they all really honor the uniqueness of Katie," Noble said. "She and I were really close friends and fellow teachers, and knowing how important being outdoors and being really active were to her, being able to do some of these things for her students would mean so much to her and would really reflect her personality and the things she cared a lot about."

Noble said McDiarmid's family planned to scatter the former teacher's ashes at Smith Rock, a favorite hiking spot, and also at an area where her family took mule hikes in the Marble Mountains.

The bench at Denman would be a way for local friends and family to go and remember her.

"At Hedrick, we're hoping to work with a nursery and build a stone path and have a little corner dedicated to Katie with a bench and a plaque and a few of the plants that were really special to her," Noble said.

"And, since Denman was a really favorite place for her, if people want to go somewhere local and visit a sort of memorial to Katie, it'll be this bench at Denman. It was just a place that she really loved to share with her students."

Noble said an initial fundraising goal for the three memorials is $3,000. As of Friday, just over half the amount had been donated.

To donate, see www.gofundme.com/gofund-me-gbht54qk.

Reach Medford freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.

Katie MacDiarmid loved the outdoors and teaching her middle school students about it. (submitted photo)