‘Ave atque vale’: Former MHS Latin teacher dies after battle with ALS

Jennifer Chavez, who taught Latin at Marblehead High School for years, has passed away after a battle with ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Friends and former colleagues at MHS posted about her death on social media with the Latin phrase, “Ave atque vale,” which means “I salute you and goodbye.” The saying was used in eulogies to Roman heroes.

“Jennifer was our rock,” Spanish teacher Candice Sliney told the Current. “Her kind and compassionate personality combined with her wit made her an absolute joy to be around. She was always teaching us, we turned to her for so much support.”

Former MHS Latin teacher Jennifer Chavez, center, is surrounded by friends and teachers, left to right, Andrea West, Candice Sliney, Mary Francois, Elmer Magaña, Holly Grose and Laura Alvarez last October. COURTESY PGOTO

Sliney shared one story that highlighted Chavez’s passion for teaching.

“She was so dedicated to her students that one year she brought her young daughter, who was under the weather, to her midterm  exam. She had a little cushion on the floor for her to rest on.  Jennifer didn’t want her students taking an important test with a substitute. She later got in trouble for bringing her daughter but she told us, ‘I wouldn’t have done it any differently, I needed to be there for them.’”

On Facebook, Sliney added, “Jennifer brought passion to her curriculum, which often included teaching multiple levels in one class. Her students enjoyed her classes and developed strong skills which helped them in a myriad of ways in their continuing education. 

“She practiced mindfulness and shared her calming strategies with others. Jennifer was spiritual and found comfort in her faith. Unfortunately, her body was not as strong as her mind and continuously failed her. We can only hope to be as much of a fighter against adversity as Jennifer was.”

Chavez taught at MHS for many years before leaving in 2022 for a job at Austin Prep. 

“After she started in her new job Jennifer realized something was not right when she lost her balance a few times and noticed weakness in her right hand,” her friend Maria Brosnan wrote on a GoFundMe page for the Chavez family. “She went through a grueling process of going from doctor to specialist and undergoing every test imaginable until finally getting the dreaded diagnosis of ALS in April 2022.”

Chavez lived in Swampscott, where she and her husband, Rob, raised their children, Julian and Isabella. 

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Editor Leigh Blander is an experienced TV, radio and print journalist who has written hundreds of stories for local newspapers, including the Marblehead Reporter.

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