Sacto 9-1-1
December 9, 2012
St. Francis High's visual arts teacher dies photographing a train

Kathryn Mary Carlisle.jpegBy Anne Gonzales

A St. Francis High School visual arts teacher, known for her talent and passion, died when she was struck by a train while taking photos near the campus Saturday afternoon.

Kathy Carlisle, 52, was struck by a Union Pacific train shortly before 3 p.m. near 65th Street and Elvas Avenue. She had been a faculty member at St. Francis since 2008, teaching art, painting, sculpture and photography.

Sacramento police said Carlisle was taking photos of an oncoming train, when she was hit from behind by another train coming in the opposite direction. Police said there was no indication of foul play, and she reportedly died at the scene of the accident.

A statement from school president Margo Reid Brown said Carlisle was "doing what she loved - engaging in her passion for photography," when she was killed.

Carlisle leaves behind her husband Steve Jarvis, and three children, Will and Bianca, who attend college, and Violet, who is a freshman at St. Francis, said Reid Brown.

Formal classes at the high school will be cancelled Monday, in lieu of a memorial service for Carlisle. Students are being instructed to report to their homeroom at 8 a.m., then gather in the gym at 8:15 a.m. for the service.

School spokeswoman Carla Hass said the service would be open only to students, faculty, staff and parents.

The students may leave campus at 10:30 a.m., and grief counselors will be available on campus, Reid Brown said.

A memorial location has been set up on campus, she said, inviting students to bring remembrances to add to the memorial.

Hass said she didn't know if Carlisle was alone at the time of the accident, or whether she was working on a project related to school activities.

Kathryn Mary Carlisle, a Detroit native, attended California State University, Sacramento, was an award-winning photographer and was well-connected in the local visual arts community. She taught a unit for the visual and performing arts focusing on the Holocaust, and produced several local student Holocaust exhibitions.

"I've taught it every year and for me it's just a really compelling way to help students understand how those issues of racism and genocide actually apply to their lives today," she was quoted in a recent newspaper article.

One student project, "The Holocaust: Illuminated Memory," was shown at the Yom Ha'Shoah Memorial and KOH Library and Cultural Center, both in Sacramento. The student collection has been invited to show at the University of Minnesota in April 2013.

Some of her students' work can be viewed on a blog Carlisle put together for the project at

She also was one of 26 teachers and civic leaders awarded a fellowship to study the Holocaust at the Memorial Library in New York City last summer. The program was designed to encourage teachers from around the country to think creatively about methods of teaching the Holocaust.

"Kathy was a passionate artist, and dedicated teacher to her students," Reid Brown said. "She possessed the ability to teach students to connect to their audience through art and showed them the incredible power of photography to tell a story or convey a message."

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