Sunday, May 9, 2004 at 11:46 PM

Beloved teacher loses her battle with cancer

Kelly Shea Gallo of Taylor Middle School and Mills High School died Monday

By Malaika Fraley, STAFF WRITER

MILLBRAE -- Students lingered around Taylor Middle School room A-1 all afternoon Tuesday, as they often did to be near sixth-grade teacher and coach Kelly Shea Gallo.

But this day was different, because instead of being there to talk and laugh with their favorite teacher, students Tuesday were there to reminisce about the woman considered a mentor by hundreds of Millbrae children.

Kelly Shea Gallo, 35, died of breast cancer Monday night, surrounded by family members at a San Francisco hospital.

Shea Gallo was a no-nonsense woman, but very caring and personable, always making up nicknames for people. She loved sports, shopping for her daughters, and taking regular trips to Disneyland -- she was a particular fan of Goofy.

Shea Gallo taught swimming lessons and coached basketball, volleyball and softball teams at Taylor Middle School and Mills High School, where she was the girls varsity basketball coach for the last four years. She was embarking on her 10th year of teaching at Taylor last August when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

People say they'll remember Shea Gallo as a dedicated and inspirational educator with a unique and natural rapport with youth. Students kept her in their lives long after graduations. Every year, she would take a group of freshman and sophomore girls on a road trip to different colleges to get their minds on the future.

'Every school has its own culture, its own spirit, and Kelly was ours,' Taylor Principal John Corry said. 'She was big part of this community and will be missed beyond belief.'

Many people were amazed by how strong Shea Gallo remained throughout her difficult bout with cancer. Just a month ago, she was seen dancing at a fund-raiser to send students to Australia. Just two months ago, she was running up and down the court at a faculty basketball game.

"She was very tough all the way to the end, that's what's so shocking. No one thought it would get her in the end," Corry said.

Born in San Francisco on May 17, 1968, Shea Gallo was raised in South San Francisco and Millbrae. She graduated from Mercy High School in Burlingame in 1986, and obtained a liberal arts degree from California State University, Chico, and a teaching credential from San Francisco State University.

In Chico, she met her husband Mark Gallo, whom she married in 1995. The couple were raising their daughters Mia, 7, and Chloe, 3, in South San Francisco.

Shea Gallo is further survived by her parents, Jim and Caroline Shea; brothers Kevin and Brian Shea; and sister Tracy Montserrat.

The public is invited to attend at memorial service for Shea Gallo at 6 p.m. Monday at St. Dunstan's Church at 1133 Broadway in Millbrae. A reception will follow.

Family members say that in lieu of flowers, donations can be made to The Shea Gallo Children's Trust being set up at Peninsula Bank, 1001 Broadway, Millbrae 94030