|16 Dec 2020|
“Mr Chavez was my hero!” That’s how ISKL High School English teacher and ISKL Alumni, Caroline Tan (Class of ‘87) describes Mr Alex Chavez who taught her choir from Grade 3. The Chavez family loomed large in Caroline’s time at ISKL. She was also taught AP English by Mrs Virginia (Ginger) Chavez and graduated in the same class as Kirstin Chavez.
It is fitting then, that a tribute to Mr and Mrs Chavez, commissioned by Timothy Chavez (‘84) with contributions from ISKL Alumni, former students and faculty friends of the couple, has been installed at Caroline’s English classroom. She says, “When I first got the news that my classroom was being considered as the place for this plaque, I wasn’t just overjoyed, I felt so honored to be considered. Mr and Mrs Chavez are part of ISKL’s history.”
The Chavez family arrived in Kuala Lumpur in July, 1977. It was Alex and Virginia’s first overseas teaching post, and they had both previously been professors at Adams State College in Alamosa, Colorado. Their adventure began with a phone call from ISKL Head of School, Robert B. Gaw, offering them each a two-year contract. According to Tim, Mr Chavez asked his wife, “How about Malaysia?” to which she replied, “Why not? Where the hell is that?”
Music and theatre soon became a focus for the pair. Mr Chavez taught music, guitar, and chorus to all levels, and sponsored the Audio-Visual club. Mrs Chavez taught AP English, British Literature to High School students, and sponsored the Pan-Thespians of ISKL.
They directed the Fall plays and Spring musicals together and were known as patient, nurturing educators. The 1987 Harimau yearbook was dedicated to their decade of service, with the authors noting, “Together, these two members of the faculty have enriched the hearts and lives of many involved and will be missed greatly by faculty and students.”
The plaque’s title, “The Keys”, is a reference to the Chavez’s name. According to Tim, “The name “Chavez” is derived from Llaves...ancestors in Spain (kicked our with the Jewish purge in the 1400s) were key makers.”
In response to the news that a plaque in the Chavez’s honor was commissioned, many of their former students recalled the impact this dynamic theatrical and musical pair had at ISKL. Raissa Chernushenko (‘79) recalls, “… I am pulled back into the nostalgia of Choir, Fishwrap, musicals, drama classes, and all the activities that began to define who my teenaged brain was longing to be. You, [both], were a big part of that transformation.”
George Lewis (‘84) echoed the sentiment: “Thank you both for the dedicated and incredible service to our ISKL students and community. Your teaching, mentorship, listening, and love left remarkable and immeasurable impacts on so many of our lives.”
ISKL Head of School, Rami Madani, welcomed the plaque’s installation saying, “We are so delighted Alex and Ginger Chavez’s legacy is being recognized with this plaque. ISKL is a better place for their time with us and they are fondly remembered by many in our broader alumni community. There’s no doubt that our rich culture of music and theatre stems from their decade of service.”
Mr Alex Chavez passed away in 2007 at the age of 84. This plaque is a surprise Christmas gift for Mrs Virginia Chavez.
Merry Christmas Mrs Chavez!
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