Sit down for a casual chat with Blue Valley High School Spanish teacher Kathryn Sanfle, and a few things become instantly clear. For starters, she radiates all of life’s good stuff—kindness, gratitude, positivity and perseverance. Her arresting brown eyes fill with joy at the mention of what she calls her greatest accomplishment: her three young boys ages 5, 7 and 9.
A graduate of Blue Valley Schools, she went on to educate herself at Texas Christian University followed by earning her master’s degree at Rockhurst. She has traveled extensively through work abroad opportunities and mission trips. Putting her Spanish to the test, she resided in the Dominican Republic for two years where she met and married her first love and now husband, Teodoro.
Kathryn has taught in the Blue Valley School district since 2009 and has become highly revered by both students and faculty alike. She also holds the distinguished title of Department Chair. It’s little surprise that when describing their scooter-driving teacher, her students use words like compassionate, positive, strong and optimistic. She has earned a reputation within the district as being a crusader for mental health, practicing with her students methods of deep breathing and visualization, and helping them to debunk their insecurities. When asked why her focus is on mental health she responded, “I have watched high school become increasingly more emotionally challenging in the past 10 years, with the impact of social media and the increase in academic pressures.” She believes it is important to create a safe space for her students, one where they can ask for help if they need it. “Maybe they have a person and that’s great, but if they don’t, I am always going to offer to be their person.”
Her motto is Live Deliberately and for her it’s personal. She battled and successfully beat breast cancer in 2018-2019 only to find out at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic that her cancer had returned in other parts of her body. Back pain led to finding the cancer in her spine, which mandated a spinal surgery. The cancer has now been found in her bones, liver and the outside lining of her brain. She says she is “living full circle” as her family has moved back into the home she once grew up in. Now a multigenerational household, the support of her family is crucial throughout this next chapter of her stage four cancer diagnosis. When asked why she is doing it—having three young children, being a wife, a mother and still continuing to teach she says, “I have no interest in becoming a full-time cancer patient, my students know I value them, and I will continue to teach until my doctors tell me that I can’t.” The students and staff at Blue Valley High School have designed a Live Deliberately T-shirt in her honor that can be purchased with proceeds going to the Sanfle Family. "BVHS is a special place, the teachers here truly care for their students and for each other."
She shares that she has begun the process of making heart-wrenching end of life preparations, like recording messages to her young sons for all of the milestones that she will miss. Lovingly reflecting on her boys she says, “I know I won’t get to see my boys pitch a high school baseball game, but I can watch my third grader pitch a baseball game.” She is choosing to live in joy, prioritizing only the things that really matter, and letting the rest fall away. “My circle of things that truly matter has grown much smaller these days.”
To her students she gives the precious life advice of “live deliberately, don’t waste time, don’t let fear keep you from doing things.” She shares a story of crawling into a uninhabited bear cave in Alaska last summer and with a laugh says, “don’t be afraid of looking stupid if it’s going to enhance your life.” On the importance of thankfulness in her life she quotes David Steindl-Rast: “The root of joy is gratefulness. It is not joy that makes us grateful, it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” She continues on to say, “the spot between joy and gratitude is where I reside right now and where I want to be living.”