Friends and Professors Remember Alina BigJohny

By Rachel Martin

August 17, 2011 Updated Nov 23, 2013 at 1:15 AM EDT

NORTH MANCHESTER, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – Professors and classmates at Manchester College spoke Tuesday on what they remember about Alina BigJohny.

Alina BigJohny was one of five killed on Saturday evening when the main stage collapsed at the Indiana State Fair. Friends said Alina won tickets to the Sugarland concert from a contest over the radio. She went to the concert with her friend, Jennifer Haskell, who is currently at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis.

This fall, Alina was supposed to start her first full-time teaching job as a 7th grade English teacher at Wilson Middle School in Muncie, Ind.

“She was passionate about teaching even right off of the bat, it was very important to her. She knew what she wanted and she wanted to make difference,” said Assistant Professor of English, Vicki Eastman. She had Alina in class her first year and said she was very creative, committed, and professional.

“She was a natural, you know when you take a look at the students that come in, some of them grown into teachers and some of them bring this little kernal of already an inate teacher and that would've been Alina,” said Eastman.

Jessie Hickerson and Alina were two of six students in the English department while at Manchester. She describes Alina as, “funny and spunky,” and that she had a heart for teaching.

“She would've been a great teacher. I remember when she was working on her education portfolio that she was just so excited about the lesson plans she was drawing up. She was so excited to actually implement them with her student teaching and to actually just get out there and impact student lives,” said Hickerson.

Vice President and Dean of Academic Affairs, Glenn Sherfman, said Alina was the Student Ambassador at Manchester. He said she was an inspiring role model.

“I did not have her in class myself, by my colleagues all speak incredibly highly of not only her ability in written and oral communication, but just in terms of what she brought to the classroom. She was always the first person to volunteer,” Sherfman said.

Kayla Sollars met Alina last fall while working on campus. She said they played “truth,” a game where people ask questions and you must answer truthfully. Sollars was surprised how blunt Alina could be.

“The first thing you think about her is how open and honest she is and how she was willing to tell you exactly how she felt, but at the same time she was so sweet,” said Sollars.

While Hickerson was reminiscing about listening to country music on a trip to Chicago, Sollars jumped in, “She liked country music and correcting your grammar,” she said with a laugh.

Hickerson nodded her head and said it was just the teacher in her.

“She definitely had that teacher’s heart though. She’d laugh about it, but it was one of those things, she genuinely wanted you to do it right.”

Funeral arrangements for Alina BigJohny will held at Klaehn, Fahl & Melton Funeral Home in Fort Wayne. Visitation is on Thursday from 2-9 p.m. The funeral service will be Friday morning at 11.

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