Teaching Profession

Several Educators Identified as Victims in Las Vegas Mass Shooting

By Madeline Will — October 02, 2017 5 min read
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On Sunday night, a gunman opened fire at an outdoor country music festival, killing at least 58 people and injuring hundreds of others. This is the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

News outlets, including the Washington Post, have begun reporting on the victims who have been identified so far. At least eight were educators or school-based personnel, and Education Week will keep updating this list. [On Oct. 5, Clark County released the names and dates of birth for all 58 victims. This article has been updated to reflect the victims’ correct ages.]

Here are their stories.

Jennifer Parks, 36, was a kindergarten teacher in Palmdale, Calif. She had taught at the elementary school for three years, and had two children.

“She was always enthusiastic, energetic, committed, and dedicated to her students, her colleagues and was so proud to be a teacher,” the Westside Union district said in a statement obtained by ABC News. “The students who were instructed by her knew what it was to love learning as Jennifer gave them the sense of wonder, curiosity, and excitement about all they did.”

Superintendent Regina Rossall told SFGate.com that Parks “was a teacher who loved coming to school, you could see it in her face.”

Sandy Casey, 34, was a special education teacher in a California middle school.

“She’s absolutely loved by students and colleagues alike and will be remembered for her sense of humor, her passion for her work, her devotion to her students, her commitment to continue her own learning and taking on whatever new projects came her way,” the Manhattan Beach Unified school district superintendent Mike Matthews said, according to ABC 7. “She’s made a tremendous difference in the lives of our students and their families, many of whom worked with her over multiple years.”

An email sent to district families noted that several other educators from the district were at the music festival as well, but were unharmed. Casey’s fiancé, Christopher Willemse, who worked as a behavioral therapist in her classes, was also there and tried to save her. She died in his arms.

Kelsey Meadows, 28, was a substitute teacher in Taft, Calif.—at the same high school she once attended.

“Kelsey was smart, compassionate, and kind,” Taft Union High School’s principal, Mary Alice Finn, said in a statement. “She had a sweet spirit and a love for children. Words cannot adequately capture the sorrow felt by her students, colleagues, and friends in learning of her passing.”

The news site YourCentralValley.com reported that Meadows studied history at Fresno State University. One of her former professors, Melissa Jordine, said that during class discussions, Meadows “was always involved and talking to other students and pushing the discussion forward.”

The entire community “loved and respected her,” the school’s statement read. Grief counselors are available to students and staff.

Lisa Romero-Muniz, 48, was a disciplinary secretary at a Gallup, N.M., high school. The Washington Post interviewed a woman who said Romero “was always telling my granddaughter to stay out of trouble and get somewhere and do the right thing.”

When students heard of her death, “everyone was crying,” the woman said.

Susan Smith, 53, was the office manager at an elementary school in Simi Valley, California. She had worked for the school district for 16 years, and she was active in the parent-teacher association when her own children attended the schools.

“She had a great sense of humor. She was very funny. She was great with the children and with the staff,” Jake Finch, the spokeswoman for the district, told the Washington Post. “In a school this size, the office manager is really at the center, the hub. You have to be able to get along with everybody.”

Counselors went to every classroom on Monday to help students cope with news of Smith’s death. Students are writing letters to Smith’s family and drawing cards, Finch told the Post.

Bill Wolfe Jr., 42, was the head youth wrestling coach at an elementary school in Shippensburg, Pa. The father of two also coached Little League. He was at the Las Vegas music festival with his wife, Robyn, to celebrate their 20th anniversary. She survived the shootings.

Tony Yaniello, who runs the varsity high school program, told the Post that Wolfe and his wife were passionate about raising money for new equipment and uniforms for the school. Wolfe was the kind of coach who made sure kids had fun, Yaniello said, but he also was committed to teaching discipline and the rules of the sport.

“He’s a leader, a go-getter,” Yaniello said. “Kids always had his attention.”

Tara Roe, 34, was an educational assistant in Alberta, Canada. She had two children.

John Bailey, the superintendent of the Foothills School Division where she worked, said in a statement it has been a “challenging time” for the district. A crisis-response team is in place to assist students and staff members, he said.

Loretta Hamilton, who is one of Roe’s parents’ neighbors, told the Canadian news agency CBC News that Roe was passionate about her work in education, her community, and being involved in her children’s sports teams.

“The hearts that have been broken today by Tara’s loss ... it’s just mindblowing,” Hamilton said.

Jessica Klymchuk, 34, was an educational assistant, librarian, and bus driver for a Catholic school in Alberta, Canada. She was also a mother of four.

“The scope of this tragedy is worldwide, and we are feeling its impact here at home,” said Betty Turbin, the superintendent of the Holy Family Catholic Regional Division, in a statement to the Edmonton Journal.

For teachers who are struggling with what to say about the shooting in class, here are some thoughtful essays on discussing tragic events with students:

Image: Police officers take position on the Las Vegas Strip outside the Mandalay Bay resort and casino during the shooting at a country music festival on Oct. 1. --John Locher/AP

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.