Jeff Jelskey used to tell his students at Natrona County High School about his past days as a football player. Teachers reliving their glory days typically made students roll their eyes, said Zach Schneider, a pupil of Jelskey’s in the 1990s.
But not when Jelskey did it.
“He was just a really charismatic, energetic teacher,” said Schneider, who returned to NC to teach in 2009, 17 years after he sat in the first history class Jelskey taught at the school.
Jelskey was found dead in his Casper home on May 15 after he did not arrive to work. Coroner Connie Jacobson said he died from natural causes. She said she couldn’t be more specific but might know more later this week, depending on test results.
Schneider said he heard of Jelskey’s death from an administrator. It’s shocking anytime “somebody’s torn out of your life like that,” but Schneider said it was especially hard because of who Jelskey was. He had grown up in Canada before moving back to the United States, so he “knew what it was to be an outsider,” Schneider said.
“He made a connection with all kids who were good students and good athletes,” he said of Jelskey, “but he also made connections with those students who had maybe dropped out before, or students who had to get their siblings ready for school because for some reason their parents weren’t able to.”
The history teacher’s death sent “profound shock” rippling through the high school last week. He affected every student, Schneider said, because he was demanding. Students either responded to that challenge with frustration or adoration.
“Regardless of how you felt, knowing that he was gone was a huge loss,” Schneider said.