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Bench keeps alive memories of a popular teacher

This memorial bench and garden sits outside Rosemount Middle School.

A year after Rosemount Middle School teacher Maheen Naz Butt died, staff and students still get a reminder of her every time they show up at school.

Butt, a communication interaction teacher at RMS, was diagnosed with glandular cancer Aug. 6, 2009. She died 24 days later, just as staff at the school was starting workshops in preparation for the school year.

Today, a tree, a bench swing and a small garden stand as a memorial of the impact she had on her students and her colleagues.

Money for the memorial came in part from Butt's family, but donations also came in from staff at the school. Special education teacher Linda Filonowich said staff and parents at the school donated about $1,000 for the project. Sue Schmidt, an art teacher at RMS who does a lot of the gardening around the school, planned the planting.

Butt, who was originally from Pakistan, had no family close by. She has sisters living elsewhere in the United States. Her father still lives in Pakistan.

"Maheen was a very special teacher here," Filonowich said. "She's a very easy person to know and love. The kids really appreciated her teaching."

Filonowich said the memorial project started with a tree and grew from there. The school's student council contributed money. A plaque on the bench serves to memorialize Butt.

The people who use the bench don't always know why it's there, but principal Mary Thompson said it's a peaceful place to sit. She said Butt's sisters, who visited the school on the anniversary of their sister's death, appreciated the memorial.

Thompson said the bench is a nice reminder of someone she still misses.

"Every day I drive up to school, I see it and I say a little prayer," she said. "It's a nice way to start the day."