Berkeley High Teacher Dies in Philippines While On Fulbright Scholarship

By Riya Bhattacharjee and Rio Bauce
Friday August 08, 2008 - 03:31:00 PM
Berkeley International High School teacher Kalpna Mistry passed away Aug. 4 while on a Fulbright Scholarship to the Philippines.
Berkeley International High School teacher Kalpna Mistry passed away Aug. 4 while on a Fulbright Scholarship to the Philippines.

Kalpna Mistry, a global studies teacher at Berkeley International High School, died from natural causes Monday, Aug. 4 while on a Fulbright Scholarship to the Philippines. 

A website created by Mistry’s family, “In Memory of Kalpna Mistry,” informs visitors that she received immediate medical assistance and was accompanied by close friends from her teaching program when she passed away. 

“We are still uncovering the details of what happened, and are in the process of getting Kalpna home,” a message from her relatives said. 

“She accomplished so much and touched so many lives in the short time she was with us. We are so proud of her and will miss her tremendously. She had a gift of connecting with everyone, and was dedicated to making a difference in the world. Kalpna was committed to education for all, and was an exceptional teacher at Berkeley High School, where she inspired hundreds of students. Kalpna’s free spirit, giving nature and unmatched wit will be greatly missed.” 

Mistry’s funeral services are scheduled for Saturday, 1 p.m. at the Spangler Mortuary, Los Altos Chapel at 399 South San Antonio Road in Los Altos. 

Mistry, 28, taught freshman global studies in the recently accredited International Baccalaureate program at Berkeley High. 

The daughter of Amratlal and Ramaben Mistry, Mistry was born in Redwood City, Calif. on June 13, 1980 and grew up in Mountain View with her parents, her grandparents Kunverben and the late Dalpatbhai Mistry, and her two sisters, Raakhee and Priya.  

A graduate of Mountain View High School in June, Kalpana pursued a bachelor’s degree in social welfare and international development studies from UC Berkeley, graduating in 2003. 

She married her best friend and childhood sweetheart Sidarth Khoshoo in 2005. In 2007 she received a master’s degree in education from Harvard University, and started teaching at Berkeley High’s International School later that year.  

After completing her first year at the International School last year, Mistry received the Fulbright-Hays Scholarship to study in the Philippines. 

“Kalpna’s passion for education began in high school,” Mistry’s sister Priya told the Daily Planet in an e-mail. 

“She was a student of the world, and strongly believed in immersing herself into new cultures. Through her experiences with programs such as Amigos Mexico, India Education Abroad, and the Philippines Fulbright-Hays scholarship, she became a force for social justice.” 

In an e-mail to the Berkeley High community, Principal Jim Slemp offered his condolences. 

“Our esteemed colleague Kalpna Mistry passed away this past week and will be sorely missed,” he wrote. “She will be remembered by her dedication to education, her deep love of her students and great intellect.” 

Slemp’s e-mail informed the community that counselors from the Berkeley High School Health Center would be available at 664-6965, and that the school was planning a memorial service after summer break. 

An outpouring of messages started pouring in from students, family and friends on a Facebook page dedicated to Mistry once the news of her death spread. 

“I was fortunate to teach across the hall from Kalpna at Berkeley High,” wrote Rebecca Emily Martin on Aug. 4. 

“Whether it was bringing in food for her students to teach about a new culture, organizing a class Kiva loan or talking about curriculum with us teachers, Kalpna constantly impressed and inspired me. She was a rock star teacher, highly regarded among her colleagues and students, and a cherished friend. My thoughts and prayers go out to her family.” 

One of Mistry’s students, Scotty Colombo, described her as “kind and reliable.” 

“Well, at one point I was failing that class and she met with me and my mom and set me up with a folder in her classroom where I could put all my work and I pulled my grade up to a C rather quickly,” he told the Planet. 

“She was very creative in how we were to do our assignments. She was also very helpful, and I feel she genuinely made me a better learner.” 

Another Berkeley High student, Sasha Jacobs, wrote that “Ms. Mistry was the only teacher who has ever really believed in me.”  

Liz Farmer, a childhood friend, reminisced on Facebook about “Kupu.” 

“I’m still grappling with this news, as I’m sure you all are,” she wrote. 

“It’s just so hard to believe, it’s devastating. Kalpna was one of my best friends growing up. Kalpna had such a huge influence on me in ways I’m sure she didn’t even know. In sixth grade she convinced me to try out for the volleyball team—a sport I immediately fell in love with and continue to play today. Her kindness, generosity and honest-to-God care for those in need throughout the world showed me what it is to be compassionate. And her unassuming brilliance showed me what it is to be humble yet push myself beyond what I think I’m capable of.” 


The Mistry’s family is requesting donations instead of flowers and have asked people to contribute to the Kalpna Mistry Memorial Fund at Berkeley High School Development Group. Tax deductible donations can be addressed to: BHSDG — Kalpna Mistry Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 519, Berkeley, CA 9470. Please write “Kalpna Mistry Memorial Fund” in the purpose field. For more information on BHSDG, call 464-1181 or visit www.bhsdg.org.