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Foundation assists local teachers battling cancer

East Grand Plains Elementary teacher Jamie Wagner, left, was the first recipient of an award from the Angie Ramirez Memorial Foundation. Richard Ramirez, right, Angie Ramirez’s son, started the foundation to help Roswell Independent School District teachers undergoing cancer treatment. The award was presented during an assembly in the East Grand Plains Elementary gymnasium last week. Angie Ramirez, who died from breast cancer almost a year ago, taught at Missouri Avenue Elementary for more than two decades. (Daily Record Photo)

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Sunday will mark one year since Angie Ramirez died from breast cancer. Last week, her family offered the first of what they hope to be many awards from a foundation established in her memory to assist Roswell Independent School District teachers like their mother undergoing cancer treatment.

Jamie Wagner, a teacher at East Grand Plains Elementary, was the first recipient of an award from the Angie Ramirez Memorial Foundation on Feb. 24.

Richard Ramirez, Angie’s son, said Wagner seemed to have much in common with his mother, who taught at Missouri Avenue Elementary for more than two decades. Prior to teaching, she worked in administrative services for RISD while finishing her education at Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell.

Even after being diagnosed with stage four breast cancer in July 2017, Ramirez kept teaching, arranging her chemotherapy days at Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Phoenix so she could fly out of Roswell late Thursday afternoon and return to her classroom on Monday, Richard Ramirez said.

Even though he had talked to her about retirement before, that wasn’t really in her thoughts, he said.

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“She didn’t want to leave the school district, at least not any time soon,” Richard Ramirez said Monday morning at Roswell Crossfit, 4501 N. Main St., where he is the owner.

The foundation worked with the school district to identify possible recipients for the award. Learning Wagner’s story was a bit of a shock, Richard Ramirez said.

“I was like, ‘Are you talking about my mom or about Miss Wagner?’ It was such a similarity,” he said.

Wagner, a first grade teacher, said it was important to her to keep working during her treatment for breast cancer. She was diagnosed in February 2019.

“For me, it was like not focusing on the negative. If I stayed busy, I was much better. Those days that I sat at home after chemo, I would just be miserable with myself and worrying,” she said.

Wagner said she did not personally know Angie Ramirez, but could recall seeing her in educator training sessions. The foundation is a fitting memorial, she said.

“Teachers are big carers. We all just need to take care of each other and the world,” Wagner said.

Still, the $1,000 award was a surprise, she said.

“I was really shocked and blessed, and it was amazing,” she said of last week’s presentation.

The award is just another sign of the support Wagner said came from the community after her diagnosis. During her treatment, fellow teachers brought meals for her family. Friends of her husband, Travis, offered to help on the family’s farm. Even her Zumba teacher would text to check in with how Wagner was doing.

“Sometimes that’s all you need,” Wagner said. “I would encourage people to reach out. You just don’t know how much it means to someone.”

It was that kind of support from the community that inspired Ramirez’s family to give back in some way, her daughter, Emily Granado, said.

“When she was going through her treatment, we received a lot of help from family, from the school district, from teachers at her school,” Granado said.

A class at the school raised funds for her expenses, and a local foundation even helped her and her husband with the mortgage payment for a couple of months, Granado said.

“That just really meant a lot to us because there were so many other things we were dealing with,” she said. “No matter how bad things got, it made her happy to know how much people cared. That just really lifted her spirits.”

Richard Ramirez raised funds through workouts at his gym and selling T-shirts. He’s planning a fundraiser workout for Memorial Day, with part of the proceeds going to the foundation, and an event in conjunction with the Walk for Hope on May 8.

Their hope is to give at least two awards per year to teachers in RISD who are being treated for cancer. 

“They’re all fighting the same battle. That was probably the hardest part was picking one person when you want to help everyone,” Granado said. 

More information about the Angie Ramirez Memorial Foundation can be found on the organization’s Facebook page.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.

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