Daughter, sister, aunt, cousin, niece, friend, colleague, teacher and inspirer passed away on Friday November 11, 2022 at the age of 71. She was born on January 3, 1951 in Minneapolis to John D. Helmberger and Joan M. Helmberger. She was preceded in death by her parents, several aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. She is survived by her siblings John Helmberger (Randa), Jean Kingery (John), Joel Helmberger (Cindy), Julie Kirkland (David), and Jackie Fine (Tom); nine nieces and nephews; and five grandnieces and nephews.
She was a voracious reader and loved to learn, especially other languages and social sciences. She began learning and using Spanish in September 1965 and continued to learn and use the language for the rest of her life. She also studied Portuguese in the early 1970s and again in the early aughts. After attending St. Peter’s and then Richfield High School, Janet earned a BA in Latin American Studies, a BS in Elementary Education and an MA in Second Language and Culture Teaching, all from the University of Minnesota. She also earned a Ph.D. in Bilingual/Multicultural Education from Pennsylvania State University.
Before becoming an educator, Janet worked in various clerical positions for JCPenney, CDC temps and the University of Minnesota School of Medicine.
Janet began teaching in Brownsville, Texas in August 1982; She returned to the Twin Cities in 1988 and taught in the Minneapolis public schools for 20 years, retiring in 2008 and then working as a substitute teacher in the Washington, DC public schools and the Richfield public schools until February 2020. She enjoyed working with students in Kindergarten through 8th grade in Spanish and English; She also taught pre-service teachers at Penn State, focusing on method courses in literacy and children’s literature.
Janet continued to learn as she traveled and studied in Mexico, Spain, Ecuador and Guatemala; She also spent time traveling throughout the United States and Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Canada, Switzerland, France, Italy and Portugal.
Janet loved teaching and learning and children, and she shared that love and inspiration in the classrooms with hundreds of children over her decades. Ninos afortunados con una profesora extraordinario! And she stayed una estudiante her whole life, planning trips and adventures, studying cultures and new places and peoples. She always remembered our birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries, and she worked hard to keep up with everyone! Not an easy task! But that thoughtfulness and those moments of sharing were important to her and all of us. Janet, there are many Christmas trees across the country decorated with the ornaments you have given us over the years. They are precious memories of you and we will smile every year when we hang them up. Thank you for being our Nana Mayor and Tia! Nosotras te queremos mucho.
We welcome Janet’s extended family, friends, colleagues and students to a celebration of her life at the Wood Lake Nature Center in the Fireplace Room, 6710 Lake Shore Drive, Richfield, MN 55423 on Friday, January 6, 2023 from 3:50 p.m.
Released November 26, 2022