Berkeley teachers mourn drowned colleague

Berkeley Unified School District officials said Sunday that they are saddened at the loss of a former long-time employee who drowned Friday in the Russian River near Healdsburg.

Richmond resident and former Berkeley High School math and science teacher Heidi Boley, 69, was pronounced dead after rescuers found her in the river under some tree branches and brought her to shore.

Boley had been canoeing with two friends around 12:35 p.m. when their canoe overturned. Boley, who was wearing a life jacket, went missing while her two friends made it to shore, according to sheriff’s officials.

Her friends found a vineyard worker who called 911, and a sheriff’s helicopter responded. Sheriff’s deputies from the Marine Unit and the Santa Rosa office as well as firefighters from Healdsburg, Geyserville and Forestville also responded.

Boley was a native of Hawaii and started working for the Berkeley Unified School District in 1984. She was working part-time for the district in the Berkeley Research, Evaluation and Assessment department when she died.

District officials said that she worked in education for nearly 50 years.

BREA director Debbi D’Angelo said:

“What the BREA team remembers the most about Heidi is that she truly was a gentle soul and cared about everyone … She was a champion for students and sought to ensure that all students could access the curriculum. She was a pioneer for the Common Core Math Standards and continually asked how can we ensure that our Berkeley students are able to better understand and love mathematics as much as she did.”

D’Angelo added:

“She was also a very caring friend, always ensuring that we as a BREA team were taking good care of each other and ourselves.”