Michael A Padron, a language arts teacher at Summit Academy in Rockford, Illinois, the alternative school run by the Boone-Winnebago County Regional Office of Education, unexpectedly died at home in Rockford on Thursday, November 19, as he was recuperating from Covid-19, the Rockford Register Star reports. He was 38.
His wife, Nikki, a teacher at Rockford’s Spring Creek Elementary School, also received a Covid-19 diagnosis, family members said.
“I lost my husband yesterday,” the paper quoted her as saying in a statement. “It was not just a loss for me but also for his family, friends, and students. He never wanted for himself, it was always for everyone else. He was a gentle soul and a fierce trivia competitor.”
Her husband dedicated his career to helping Rockford’s “most delicate students,” she said. “His death is a tragic loss to his family, friends, and the students he served.”
Prior to joining the Summit Academy faculty, Michael taught at Rockford’s Kennedy Middle School and was nominated for a Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2014.
“He was a favorite of both students and staff and will be greatly missed,” Scott Bloomquist, regional superintendent of the Boone-Winnebago Regional Office of Education, said in a statement on Friday. “Mr Padron worked hard every day to connect with students and parents, doing all he could to meet their needs. He will forever be remembered as an educator who put students first.”
The school said counselors and therapy dogs were available at the school Friday.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Wednesday, November 25, at St Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Rockford. The family plans to establish a memorial in Michael’s name and is using Venmo to do so (@MikePadronMemorial).
Even prior to the pandemic, an estimated 1 in 14 students in US classrooms had experienced the loss of a parent or sibling before their 18th birthday. The number experiencing the loss of individuals close to them, including teachers at their school, can only be greater during the pandemic.
What’s more, only about 3 percent of teachers have ever received training on dealing with the grief that accompanies such a loss, the American Federation of Teachers found in a 2012 survey. Grief and the associated trauma can have a negative impact on young people’s “sense of future,” a 2014 study in the UK pointed out.
Brittany R Collins, who coordinates teaching and learning for an online middle and high school writing platform, offers teachers advice for dealing with grief in their students, which would be applicable whether or not a pandemic was raging:
Relationships are our greatest antidote to loss and trauma. Attachments with supportive caregivers—family members, mentors, teachers, coaches—who are available and attentive most of the time allow children, teens, and young adults to establish a sense of relational safety that serves as a salve against challenging circumstances. Such connections are particularly important for students who may not have access to attentive adults at home. …
Because it can prove challenging for many students to talk about a personal loss, know that direct conversation, though potentially powerful for some students, is not necessarily the goal of grief support. We should never ignore a student’s grief or pretend that a loss didn’t occur … but we can support students who are reticent by creating an environment supportive of connection, safety, and emotional regulation. These characteristics create a foundation for grieving students to succeed and, perhaps eventually, tell their story.