At least three teachers have died from complications of Covid-19 in recent weeks, according to CNN reporting and local media reports.
Demetria Bannister, a 28-year-old elementary school teacher in Columbia, South Carolina, was diagnosed with the virus last Friday and died Monday from Covid-19 complications, a week into the start of the school year there, CNN affiliate WIS reported.
AshLee DeMarinis, a 34-year-old middle school teacher in Potosi, Missouri, died Sunday after battling complications related to Covid-19 for three weeks, CNN affiliate KMOV reported.
Thomas Slade, a teacher at Vancleave High School in Jackson County, Mississippi, passed away last week, Superintendent John Strycker said in a statement on Wednesday.
CNN affiliate WLOX reported that Slade died on Sunday due to complications related to Covid-19.
Demetria Bannister loved music
Bannister had taught at the Windsor Elementary School for five years, WIS reported. She started her third year of teaching third-grade students virtually on August 31.
In addition to teaching, Bannister was passionate about music, and worked with the school choir in various projects. She also hosted a student club for aspiring singers.
“Known as Windsor’s Songbird, Ms. Bannister used her musical talents to bring a great deal of joy to our school,” said Denise Quickel, principal of Windsor Elementary.
At a school attendance event last year, she wrote a song about the importance of not missing classes to the tune of “Old Town Road,” the popular song by rapper Lil Nas X.
“The song and video were a big hit with our school family,” Quickel said. “Ms. Bannister loved her students and never missed an opportunity to advocate for students and public education.”
She is remembered for her dedication
The school district was notified that Bannister tested positive for coronavirus Friday. It followed the procedures for disinfecting, contact tracing and notification of close contacts.
The contact tracing and notification were based on the date she was last at the elementary school, which was August 28, the school district said. She started the school year three days later, teaching her students virtually from home.
“While gone from us too soon, Ms. Bannister’s legacy lives on through the lives of the students she taught in her five years as a dedicated educator,” said Baron R. Davis, superintendent for Richland School District Two.
School district officials said her parents allowed them to share the information to remind others of coronavirus risks. Employees and students at Windsor Elementary School are getting counseling services.
Since January, health authorities have identified more than 6.3 million Covid-19 cases and more than 191,000 deaths in the United States. South Carolina has had more than 126,000 infections and over 2,900 deaths.
AshLee DeMarinis ‘was a wonderful teacher’
AshLee DeMarinis, who taught social skills at John Evans Middle School, “was a wonderful teacher loved by students, staff and members of our community. Her commitment and passion for her students and community to succeed should be an inspiration for all of us,” Superintendent Alex McCaul and other administrators said in a letter notifying the community of her death.
While McCaul would not confirm that DeMarinis had passed away due to Covid-19, he told CNN that contact tracers had come to the school where DeMarinis taught, as was required by the local health department, and determined that she hadn’t had close contact with any teachers, staff or students.
Students had not returned to the classrooms in Potosi, Missouri, when DeMarinis first became ill.
Friday would have been DeMarinis birthday, Principal Jodi Elder told CNN, and those at the school are planning to mark the occasion by wearing red, her favorite color.
Thomas Slade was ‘living his dream,’ principal said
The Mississippi high school teacher was remembered for serving as department chairman and history teacher.
“He was truly the personification of a public servant, devoting his life and career to serving the community where he was raised,” Superintendent Strycker said.
Slade “loved our community, he loved our school, he loved our students, he was very patriotic,” Vancleave High School Principal Raina Holmes told CNN. “He would always say that his dream job was to be a teacher and that he was living his dream.”
The principal described his classroom as having books everywhere, including old encyclopedias.
“He’s kind of like the father to our campus,” she said.
Sometimes, Slade would use a gavel in class, and he had utilized a word – “skadoosh” – that he would use “like an aloha,” Holmes said. When a student made a great point he would say it in one tone. If they said something bad, he used it with a negative tone.
“He was a hard worker who loved his job, loved education, just an awesome guy,” Holmes said.
CNN’s Chenelle Terry contributed to this report