SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – A Sacramento teacher who touched the lives of so many is now being remembered by friends, family and former students.

Two years ago, Vanessa Liby was recognized as one of the state’s top educators, but just days ago, the seventh and eighth grade teacher’s life was taken too soon by cancer.

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“She was the heart of this school,” said Sara Freeman, a teacher at Sierra Oaks.

The Sierra Oaks school community was saddened by the sudden death of Liby, 47, who had been an English teacher for nearly 20 years. Many gathered on campus to remember her.

“It’s really going to be hard for us,” said Exodus Robinson, a former student of Liby.

It was in classroom 32 where she helped guide hundreds of young minds.

“You could just connect with her because she was just that type of human that was more than a teacher, she cared about her students,” another student said.

“Teaching is a calling, teaching is a passion,” Liby said during a speech in 2018.

Her impact was so strong, Mrs. Liby was named the San Juan School District’s teacher of the year in 2018.

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“We were all so happy for her and she was super excited and she definitely deserved it,” said Mikhayla O’Kelly, another former student.

But the cancer moved quickly. She had been on campus teaching just more than two weeks before she died. Her husband rushed home from his military deployment overseas to be with her.

“Thank you everybody for coming out, she was an incredible woman,” he said to the crowd.

Her sister and other family members touched by the turnout.

“It just warms my heart even more seeing all these people that loved her just like we did,” said Melissa Fisher, Liby’s sister.

It was a touching tribute to a teacher whose shortened life clearly left a lifetime of lessons sure to live on in countless lives.

“I will always think back really fondly on the time we got to spend together and I just wish we had more of that,” Fisher said.

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And even in death, she will be helping others learn. Liby’s aggressive form of cancer is rare, and tissue samples have been sent to the Stanford Cancer Center for further study of the disease.