Every day, Jenni Erb would see IKM-Manning day custodian John Koester in the school hallway, and the two of them would race to say the same phrase first:
“Has anyone told you how wonderful you are yet today?”
Koester will miss that small competition of kindness.
Erb, a family and consumer science teacher at the IKM-Manning Community School District, died Wednesday after a medical emergency sent her to the hospital early this week. She was 42.
Erb, an Audubon graduate, taught middle- and high-school students. She was a co-sponsor for the high school Student Council and assistant director for the high school musical and was involved with the high school’s Silver Cord community service program.
She and her husband, Kevin, had four kids: Jonathan, Joey, Rachel and Jesse.
For Paige Sybesma, Erb, her teacher and later her friend, was a lifeline as she navigated high school’s bumps in the road and later joined the military and was deployed to Afghanistan.
When Sybesma was deployed, Erb sent care packages and sewed Sybesma a pillowcase that she carried with her.
“When I came home on leave, she was one of the first people I made a point to see,” Sybesma said.
Sybesma, 24, graduated from IKM-Manning in 2012. She recalled a disastrous project in Erb’s family and consumer science class where she was supposed to deconstruct and remake a dress — and failed miserably. Rather than getting frustrated, Erb laughed and helped her through the project.
IKM-Manning had counselors available at the school Thursday and Friday for students needing to talk.
“We encourage you to talk with your child,” Superintendent Trevor Miller said in a districtwide message Wednesday. “How we, as adults, manage ourselves serves as an important model for helping kids handle tragedies like this. It is important that they know they are loved and supported as they talk about their feelings.”
Sybesma organized an online fundraiser for Erb and her family after Erb went to the hospital earlier this week. The fundraiser is available here.
A visitation will be held from 4-8 p.m. Sunday at the IKM-Manning gym, and again starting at 1:30 p.m. Monday. Erb's funeral will be at 2:30 p.m. Monday at the IKM-Manning gym.
“She had more room in her heart for anybody, and she never let anybody feel alone,” Sybesma said. “If you were an outcast, you could go into her classroom and talk to her, and everybody was equal. Everybody was the same. She loved every single student the same.
“It’s a pretty tragic day for our community.”