Funny, smart, kind, dependable, generous, dedicated. These are the words most repeated by Mandarin Middle School teachers while they remembered their colleague Julie Shepherd Monday, Assistant Principal Angela Gaylan said.
Shepherd died in a traffic accident Saturday after losing control of her vehicle about 8 a.m. on Interstate 95, the Florida Highway Patrol said. Since 2002 the 57-year-old teacher taught seventh-grade social studies and civics at the Jacksonville school.
Grief councilors were there Monday to offer assistance to students, Gaylan said.
School athletics coach Mike Kraatz allowed the substitute teacher to take his class so he could take Shepherd’s.
“He felt they [the students] needed to see a familiar face,” Gaylan said.
Her room was red, white and blue, and she was always organized and neat. Students made a memory chain they hung across her white board and signed a globe in her classroom, Gaylan said.
“Everything today has been about honoring Mrs. Shepherd,” she said.
Teachers are broken into teams of four (math, social studies, language arts and science) at Mandarin Middle, and they become close while teaching the same students, Gaylan said.
Team Excel Hawk was Shepherd’s team. Gaylan said the other three teachers in her team are “extremely devastated” but took time to write down some things that stood out about Shepherd.
She loved news about the Royal Family and the show “Downton Abbey.” She loved her family, her husband, Mitch, and her three children.
She was a Florida State University fan and also cheered for the Jaguars. She loved boating and was a movie buff.
In September 2012, she was voted the teacher of the month. The school’s teachers have already decided Shepherd will be this October’s teacher of the month, Gaylan said.
In describing Shepherd, Gaylan said one word comes immediately to mind.
“The word I think of is ‘amazing,’ ” she said. “She was an amazing teacher and an amazing person.”
Derek Gilliam: (904) 359-4619