Hamilton County Schools mourning loss of two teachers
Students and staff members at two Hamilton County schools are mourning the loss of two teachers.
The Westview Elementary community was shocked by the sad news on Saturday, of an accident on Highway 58 that claimed the life of Karen Saxton. The fourth grade teacher is being remembered as a dedicated teacher with a kind and gentle heart. Saxton was 64.
Also over the weekend, Danielle McBath, a first-grade teacher at Red Bank Elementary School died. The school posted a tribute on Facebook saying Danielle bonded quickly with the staff and connected easily with her first-grade students. She died of a sudden illness. Danielle McBath was 29 years old.
Hamilton County Schools' crisis counseling team members are at both Westview and Red Bank Elementary, offering support to students and fellow teachers.
Over the weekend, Westview Elementary School and Red Bank Elementary employees called parents to explain what happened so parents could begin talking to their children.
It was a tough day as students, teachers, and faculty remembered a bright light at Westview Elementary School. “Mrs. Saxton was a wonderful person from what we learned. Had lots of wonderful sayings and kept the boys and girls in a very upbeat manner,” said Terri Rodriguez.
Terri Rodriguez is a counselor for the Hamilton County School District. Her team will rotate between Westview and Red Bank Elementary Schools. They will be there for the students as well as the adults. “You're not just talking about one child, you are talking about an entire grade level. An entire school.”
Death is a tough subject to navigate as a parent. However, experts said it is important to talk with children about these issues. “We supported them through listening, we supported them through illustrations, allowing them to illustrate. We supported them by allowing them to share funny moments and stories.”
She said being honest is key. She is encouraging adults to be calm and factual answering any questions children may have. “Being honest with them. Using the language that is appropriate for children. Like using the word death. We do interchange it with loss and death. Making sure they understand, yes it is a death.”
Rodriguez said staff spent the day explaining to students it is okay to cry, but it is also okay not to. “Giving them the opportunity to share their feelings. We can share with them how we feel. Maybe experiences we have had. Making that environment as comfortable as possible.”
Students at the schools spent the day remembering their teachers by drawing or writing letters. School counselors said they will be delivered to the teachers' families. Staff members who were close to the teachers are being given time to grieve. Counselors are stepping into their classrooms to help.
A celebration of life for Danielle McBath will be held Saturday Sept. 29 at 10:00 a.m. at White Oak United Methodist Church in Red Bank.