UPDATE: A celebration of life was held Tuesday in honor of the assistant principal of Big Ridge Elementary School.

Connie McDade passed away Friday surrounded by loved ones.

McDade has been the assistant principal at Big Ridge Elementary since 2016, and before that, she spent many years teaching at Thrasher Elementary. She was a tremendous friend and mentor to teachers throughout Hamilton County and was loved deeply by the students. 

“She radiated this light that couldn't be stopped,” Jeana Johnson, principal of Big Ridge Elementary School, said.

McDade was the ray of sunshine students needed on a gray day.

“She filled us with love, kindness, and care when we were feeling sad and we needed someone to hug on,” Sophie Day, a third-grade student, said.

 She was only at Big Ridge Elementary School for a year and a half, but during that time, she made a big impression on her students.

“She had a great bond with all the students," fifth-grader Caiden Simpson said. "She just really made you happy every time."

“She always had a happy smile. She always filled us with happiness and joy,” said Carter Jones another third grade student.

Mrs. McDade had been with the Hamilton County School District since 1996. The majority of her career was spent at Thrasher Elementary School; she was a three time recipient of the Hamilton County Teacher of the Year Award.

“She was the most compassionate, loving, caring person. She loved these kids, and they loved her,” Johnson said.

She didn't just teach students. Other teachers looked up to her as a mentor.

“Even if she was having a rough day, or if we all were having a rough day, she would still smile," said Elizabeth Smith, a math and science teacher at the school. "It was a genuine smile, it wasn't fake at all."

“Always count on her to be calm, and come to the meetings if you needed her to be there to support you,” Lisa Blakely, a guidance counselor with the school district, said.

Students and staff agree, without Mrs. McDade, it is as if a little piece of the school is missing. But they will cherish the time spent together.

“We can't really have any new memories of her, but we can rely on old ones.” Day said. "And we can still have her by our memories.

Principal Johnson shared one final fitting tribute:

Mrs. McDade was well known for her love of snow days when students and teachers could get out of school early.  She passed away on Friday, around the same time schools dismissed two hours early, due to snow.

Those wishing to honor Connie McDade’s memory are welcome to contribute to Big Ridge Elementary School to help further the school's educational mission.

PREVIOUS STORY: The celebration of life for Connie McDade will be held at Brainerd Baptist Church, 300 Brookfield Avenue on Tuesday at 10:00 a.m.

Hamilton County educator Connie McDade passed away Friday at the age of 52. She had been with the school system since 1996 and was an assistant principal at Big Ridge Elementary.  She previously taught at Thrasher Elementary. 

Mrs. McDade passed away surrounded by loved ones, including her husband, Assistant Superintendent of Hamilton County Schools Dr. Lee McDade.

Hamilton County Schools said in a statement:

"Connie McDade was loved by the children and she was a tremendous friend and mentor to teachers at Big Ridge and Thrasher.  The loss of Connie McDade has hit the Hamilton County school family very hard because of the special place Connie McDade and Dr. Lee McDade both hold in the hearts of teachers and system personnel."

Additional counselors were at Big Ridge Elementary today to help students and staff cope the with the loss of Mrs. McDade.

Here is the obituary information from Chattanooga Funeral Home:

Connie June McDade of Walden passed away on December 8, 2017 with her loving husband, Lee McDade, family and friends by her side.

She was born June 12, 1965, in Chattanooga. Connie was a proud graduate of Tennessee Temple High School, Class of 1983 and a 1994 graduate of University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in elementary education. She was a member of Philadelphia Baptist Church and a summertime worshiper at Little Brown Church.

She began her well-respected teaching career in 1996 with Hamilton County at Mountain Oaks Elementary, followed by Soddy Elementary. The majority of her career was spent at Thrasher Elementary before becoming assistant principal at Big Ridge Elementary in 2016. She was a three-time recipient of the Hamilton County Teacher of the Year Award.

Her love for her husband, friends, family and community is a legacy that will continue to warm hearts and inspire others for years to come. She was an avid runner who loved to travel. Connie and her husband, Lee McDade, celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary this past Tuesday. Connie’s radiant smile will forever be cherished.

She was preceded in death by her parents, the late Amos P. and Ella Imogene Burrell.

She is survived by her husband Lee McDade, sister, Sharon Winnie (Gary); brothers, Amos P. Burrell Jr. (Debbie) and John Burrell (Jennifer); Niece, Malissa Winnie; Nephews, Matthew, Evan and Owen Burrell, Gary Winnie, Blake, Ian, and Jared  McDade, and Andrew Henry, as well as a multitude of devoted friends, fellow teachers and administrators, and her pride and joy – countless area students.

A Celebration of Life service will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 12, at 10 a.m. at Brainerd Baptist Church, 300 Brookfield Avenue, with Reverend Raymond Nix officiating.  Interment will be in Lakewood Memory Gardens East.

Honorary pallbearers will be current teachers and staff of Big Ridge Elementary School and current teachers, former staff of Thrasher Elementary School.

The family will receive friends on Monday, Dec. 11, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5-8 p.m. at the East Chapel.

Those wishing to honor Connie’s memory are welcome to make contributions to: Big Ridge Elementary, In Honor of Mrs. Connie McDade, 5210 Cassandra Smith Road, Hixson, Tn. 37343.

Please share your thoughts and memories at: www.ChattanoogaEastChapel.com

Arrangements are under the care of Chattanooga Funeral Home East Chapel, 404 South Moore Road, Chattanooga, Tn. 37412.