A great loss to second grade

Published 11:23 pm Friday, November 18, 2011

During nearly two decades of service to Suffolk Public Schools, Leigh-Ann Byrd watched classroom after classroom of children walk out of her door on the last day of school each year and head off into the world a little bit wiser, a little bit more full of wonder, a little bit more loved than they might have been when they started second grade at the beginning of the year.

Second grade might not be the most important time of a child’s educational career, but the impression that a second-grade teacher makes can be pivotal to that child’s future. Second-grade teachers carry a large part of the responsibility for instilling a love of learning and for getting children to acknowledge and commit to their own duties in pursuit of an education.

By all accounts, Mrs. Byrd was the kind of teacher who took her own responsibility very seriously, both at Elephant’s Fork Elementary School, where she worked this year until her untimely and unexpected death last week, and at Mt. Zion Elementary School, where she had worked until that school was closed this summer.

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“She was very responsive to the needs of all her kids,” Elephant’s Fork Principal Veleka Gatling said. “She made it her business to keep in constant communication with her parents. I heard over and over about how much she cared for the children in her classroom.”

Such teachers are a treasure. Suffolk was blessed to have had one guiding such young minds for so long. She will not be easily replaced.