Students in Monongalia County mourn the loss of their teacher

By Dave Wilson

MORGANTOWN — Additional counselors were at Brookhaven Elementary School in Monongalia County as faculty and students grieve the  loss of fourth grade teacher Shari Austin.

Austin was killed early Monday morning when a tree fell on her home, crashing into her bedroom while she slept. Austin was sleeping in the upstairs bedroom at the time of the incident, according to Cheat Lake Volunteer Fire Department Chief Jason Christopher. Her husband and child were in a different part of the home at the time.

The home is  on Pine Tree Lane, just off of Tyrone Road in the Cheat Lake area.

“She was a valuable member of the Brookhaven school family, and we are deeply saddened and shocked by her untimely passing,” deputy schools superintendent Donna Talerico said on WAJR’s Morgantown AM.

There are protocols in place to help guide faculty and staff as they are faced with breaking the news to students and their colleagues.

“We start with making sure everybody knows the facts. That includes the faculty, the staff and the parents,” said Courtney Whitehead, director of Assessment, Accountability and Counseling.

Once everyone was notified of the situation on Monday, counselors spent the first part of the day working with staff, then were available for students who were trying to come to grips with Austin’s unexpected death.

“The most confusing thing for the younger students is seeing their peers, or older students, who might be upset and the adults who might be grieving for the loss of the colleague,” said Whitehead.

Each student deals with the  news in their own  way and the school system does its best to accommodate students.

“It’s difficult for us as adults to comprehend grief and loss. It’s even more difficult for young people,” Whitehead said. “There might be some students who do very well sharing memories and focusing on happy times and there might be other students who do better if there is sort of physical activity just to expel some of that energy or confusion they may be feeling.”

Talerico emphasized that faculty and staff do their best to provide a normal school day for the students even in the most difficult times.

“We want our children to feel safe and feel that this is something we will get through together.”

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