LEXINGTON COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - The passing of Lexington County third-grade teacher Staci Blakely has left fellow teachers and community members grieving, but also with the feeling that the virus is closing in on them.
“That was the first thing I thought of because we are the same age…I am not sure if she had any other health conditions that made it worse for her, but yeah, I could totally be next,” said Richland teacher and long-time friend of Blakely’s, Emilee McAbee.
McAbee went to high school and was college roommates with Blakely and said her friend was simply a “hoot.” She smiled as she remembered her former roommate’s energy, kindness, and caring soul.
Since Blakely’s death, friends, teachers, and community members have been posting images of Wonder Woman on social media. McAbee said not only was Wonder Woman a favorite of Blakey’s but she also sees a resemblance between the women.
“It made perfect sense, going out and conquering things, that would be what she would do. The two just seem synonymous to me.”
Lexington teacher and South Carolina Education Association Greater Lexington President Lauren Pellington didn’t know Mrs. Blakely well, but she has been moved by the outpouring of love she has seen online and among her friends for the late teacher. Pellington said she is having tough conversations with coworkers about what this death means beyond a loss in their community.
“It’s a true fear and when you have someone in your circle, whether your work circle or your personal circle, and it affects them…it takes a toll on you,” she said.
Blakey’s students have been coming by the sign outside her school, Carolina Springs Elementary, to say goodbye to their teacher.
After leaving flowers by a make-shift memorial, third-grader Noah Theisman, said Blakely was his favorite teacher. Noah’s Mom Laura said it was important for her son to get some closure.
“I think the hardest thing for our family is not being able to say goodbye to Mrs. Blakely,” Laura Theisman said. “After losing Mrs. Blakely it’s really hard. It feels like we are surrounded by it,” she said about COVID-19.
Blakely’s death is the second publicly reported teacher death in the area this school year. Richland Two elementary teacher Demi Bannister died at the age of 28 in September.
Blakely’s students have been hard on some One of Blakely’s third-grade students, Noah Theisman, laid flowers down
In posts in the wake of her death, Blakey’s former students and colleagues shared cherished memories of her.
Former teaching student Kerri Jeffcoat posted that she credits Blakely for earning her degree in teaching.
Jeffcoat said she was wheelchair-bound after a car accident during her senior year of college and she was at risk of not being able to finish her teaching degree because she was unable to walk on her own.
But Blakely went out of her way to help her earn her student teaching credits so she could graduate on time, Jeffcoat said.
“She redesigned her classroom so I could move around easily,” Jeffcoat wrote. “She never saw my handicap. She was always so lively and her students adored her!!! I will never forget the impact she had on me,” she added.
Blakely’s life will be celebrated on Wednesday at First Calvary Baptist Church in Leesville.
In response to questions from WIS, Lexington One School District said they are currently teaching elementary and middle school students in person four days a week with one day online and plan to continue to do so at this time.