Newton Kansan

HESSTON — The community of Hesston is grieving today — sixth grade teacher Renee Fitzgerald died suddenly Monday.

"She was at home, and did not come to work that day. She wasn't feeling well," said superintendent Paul Becker. EMTs were brought to the home, and she was taken to the hospital."

Fitzgerald was a sixth grade math teacher. According to her profile on the Hesston schools web site, she joined the staff at Hesston in 2001.

"This came as a surprise to all of us, and it hit pretty hard. She was a tribute to her profession. We are really going to miss her," Becker said.

The school made counselors available to students Tuesday for those struggling with the loss.

Notification of Fitzgerald's passing was via a notification system from the school to parents.

"Most of the kids at the school didn't know, and it was our desire that parents were their first contact with this," Becker said. "We will have staff going through a grieving process as well. She had the respect of her peers. … Our profession is about people."

Fitzgerald earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education from St. Mary of the Plains, and then earned an English as a Second Language endorsement from Emporia State University.

She started her teaching career in Oakley, spending seven years teaching fourth and fifth grade. She taught at Hesston Middle School for 12 years.

"It was an honor to work with her in the time I have been here," Becker said. "When I went to her room, I could always tell she had a great rapport with kids. Students liked her a lot. She was enthusiastic, excited about learning and she conveyed that in her teaching. She was a pleasant person, a smile on her face all the time. She will be missed."