BELFAST, Maine — The woman killed Saturday night after her car was hit by charter bus on Route 1 was a teacher who spent the last day of her life getting ready for the start of the next school year.
Jayashree Kalmath, 61, of Camden apparently had been turning left onto Route 1 from Northport Avenue when she drove into the path of the bus, police said. It took rescuers more than an hour to cut her out of her crumpled Subaru, and by the time she was freed, weather conditions grounded the LifeFlight helicopter that had flown to get her. She was taken to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor by ambulance for medical treatment, but did not survive.
Kalmath, originally of India, had taught at the Ashwood Waldorf School in Rockport for five years. That school is unique in that teachers progress through the grades along with their students, so she had taught her class since they were in the first grade, according to Laura Purdom, public relations and marketing director at the small school.
Purdom said Monday morning that she had spent Saturday with Kalmath. They had gone shopping for supplies and gifts for her seven sixth-grade students and walked across the Passagassawakeag River in Belfast. The teacher purchased a slice of colored agate for each of the children she taught and admired a kingfisher she saw flying over the footbridge in Belfast. Purdom said that Kalmath told her about the brightly colored birds she remembered from India.
“She had a lovely day,” Purdom said. “We were just enjoying life.”
She described Kalmath as a devoted teacher and a “wonderful, gifted artist.” Her sudden death has left the tight-knit school community shocked and reeling, Purdom said.
“She was a very wise person. The faculty kind of relied on her to say the wise thing at the moment it was needed. She had a great sense of humor,” she said of Kalmath.
The teacher had come to Maine with her husband five years ago, because the Ashwood Waldorf School found itself suddenly needing a first-grade teacher, Purdom said. This summer was tough for Kalmath, whose husband died about a month ago after a long illness. Family members in India wanted her to come back to her native land after her husband’s death, but she had made a life for herself in Camden and wanted to stay in Maine. She had no children other than her students.
“She had gone through that loss,” Purdom said. “She was really looking forward to being with her students.”
Because students at the school spend so much time with their primary classroom teacher, it will be hard on Tuesday when classes resume without Kalmath. Faculty is meeting on Monday with a grief counselor, who will be on campus to help the children.
“We’ll be working to make sure they have what they need,” Purdom said. “It’s kind of like losing a parent, you know this person so well. A Waldorf teacher becomes a very important person.”
She did have a question for anyone who might have been at the accident scene. The slices of colored agate Kalmath had purchased for her students had been in her purse. Officers at the crash had found the purse but not the stones.
“The gifts were probably just crushed in the car,” Purdom said, adding that if they weren’t and were found, if would be a nice memory of Kalmath for her students.