Jamie Kreps McNab taught at Whitson Elementary School in White Salmon for most her adult life. In the wake of her passing late last year, her children are setting up a scholarship fund in her memory, as a way to honor her commitment to teaching and inspiring younger generations.
Students graduating from Columbia High School who are interested in becoming teachers are eligible for the Jamie G. Kreps McNab Scholarship, starting this year.
If you did not know Jamie, or Mrs. McNab as her former students knew her, it is worth mentioning how often people would come by her house and introduce themselves as “one of Jamie’s best friends” over the years.
Kreps McNab was a descendant of one of the earliest ranching families who settled in the White Salmon area at the turn of the century. Born Sept. 14, 1955, at Skyline Hospital in White Salmon, Jamie spent her youth growing up in White Salmon, and according to her obituary, loved to play with all of the other neighborhood children growing up. She went to Mt. Hood Community College after graduating from Columbia High School, where she met her husband, Pete, and from there received an undergraduate degree from Oregon State University. Jamie and Pete got married and moved back to White Salmon, where Jamie got hired as a second-grade teacher at Whitson Elementary School, starting a 34-year-long career as an educator for kindergarten, first grade, and second grade students. In 2012, Mrs. McNab hung up her chalk and whiteboard erasers and retired to her house on Spring Street.
As her son, Ryan McNab, put it: “Most of her life was spent two blocks away from the elementary school.”
It was not just a dedication and devotion to her students and her job that kept her here; she really enjoyed it, Ryan said. She loved the community and the community loved her back. She made time for people as a volunteer grief group leader and teammate for games of pickleball. Ryan recalled that as a kid, “I’d go out in public with her and kids would run up to her and want big hugs.”
It was that extra attention she gave to her students that led to a few of her students to become teachers themselves.
Jaci Gross, one of her former students, said Mrs. McNab “changed the course of my life that very first year I knew her, back in 1978.
“Her impact on me was so profound that I declared, as a second grader, that I wanted to be a teacher like her one day. I wanted to be able to see the potential in ALL kids and inspire them to believe in themselves,” Gross wrote in an email exchange. “Most importantly, she made me believe that I could do anything. She inspired me until her final breath.”
Gross, now a fifth-grade teacher at Lake Roosevelt Elementary School in Coulee Dam, Wash., said that she had kept in touch with Mrs. McNab at every milestone in her life, always being grateful of the impact she had on her. Gross said she believes she inspired kids her entire career.
“She was an incredible example of love and inspiration. A memorial scholarship seems absolutely necessary and beautiful. It would be a way for her to continue the legacy of inspiration and hope that she embodied,” Gross said.
The community seems to agree. In a Facebook post on the White Salmon Happenings page, Ryan made a shout-out to the community to see if anybody would be interested in donating to the fund. Within moments, the community responded.
“She was my favorite teacher ever! So sorry for your loss!” One commenter replied.
“She was a great teacher my favorite of all. She taught me how to read and to understand it well. I remember going to her house when I was in her class numerous of times to go have pizza. She will be missed and definitely will always be remembered,” said another.
Ryan and his sister Molly came up with the idea to honor her with a scholarship fund before his mother’s passing, which she ultimately agreed to. Ryan said it was a way to honor his mother’s legacy as a teacher and as a way to give back to the community, since he and his sister received community scholarships themselves.
"I just hope to lessen the burden of college loans on students who want to be educators,” said Ryan.
Ryan said he is still working out the details of the scholarship with the White Salmon Valley School District.
Those interested in donating to the fund can mail a check payable to the Jamie G. Kreps McNab Scholarship Fund to: PO Box 2603, White Salmon, WA 98672, or donate online at www.paypal.me/jgkmscholarshipfund.