Ashley Muck taught calculus and trigonometry at Dacula High School the past seven years. Despite the difficulty of these subjects, she was very popular — so much so that this year’s senior class voted her the teacher “most likely to brighten your day.”
She was well-liked and admired not because she made her classwork easy, but because, in her own exuberant way, she made higher math comprehensible.
“If we could fill the schools with teachers like Ashley, we could throw away all the failure and graduation-rate records,” said a former Dacula High principal, Donnie Nutt of Dacula. “She loved her students and would do whatever necessary to ensure their success.”
Grace Liu was a STAR student at Dacula High in 2011 and now is a junior at the University of Pennsylvania. She said she chose Muck as her STAR teacher because of her ability to inspire a love of learning.
“From her,” Liu said, “I learned not only fundamentals of calculus that carried me through tough math and economics courses in college, but also to be completely dedicated to a task and to take interest in every single person who enters my life.”
Another former student, Will Searcy, now a Yale University sophomore, said Muck had a way of making math understandable, even enjoyable, whether she was teaching advanced calculus or basic algebra.
“She had an enthusiasm that drew people to her,” he said. “If you entered her class in a bad mood, it was sure to be gone by the time class was over.”
Amy Benson of Lawrenceville, head of Dacula High’s math department, said Muck was very creative — singing songs to help students remember critical concepts and baking caramel-flavored Bundt cakes for her class as a way of illustrating volume in calculus. “Ashley was always ready to try a new approach to teaching,” Benson said.
Ashley Kristin Muck, 43, died of colon cancer Thursday at her Flowery Branch home. Her funeral will be at 2 p.m. Sunday at First Methodist Church of Lawrenceville. Wages and Sons Funeral Home, Lawrenceville, is in charge of arrangements.
A Gwinnett resident since age 4, when her family moved to Georgia from California, she attended Central Gwinnett High and earned a bachelor’s in mathematics education and a master’s in education from the University of Georgia. She taught seven years at Sandy Creek High School in Tyrone before moving to Dacula High.
Diagnosed with cancer 18 months ago, she received 27 rounds of chemotherapy but continued to teach until this past May.
“Ashley was an inspiration to all of us,” Benson said. “When I would ask her if she wanted some time off because of her illness, she would reply, ‘My kids need me — and I need them.’”
Beverly Hollingsworth of Monroe, an assistant principal at Dacula High, said Muck was so committed to her students that she gave them her cellphone number so they could call with questions about their math work.
“For the most part, the only days she was unable to come to school were the days she had chemo,” Hollingsworth said. “Even then, she wanted to grade the tests taken on the days she missed so that she could determine her students’ progress.”
Survivors include her husband of 17 years, Joseph Muck IV; a son, Joseph Muck V of Flowery Branch; her parents, Carl and Jana Collins of Braselton; a brother, Brennan Collins of Atlanta; and a grandmother, Gerry Robertson of Braselton.