On April 19 tragedy befell the CHS community. Math teacher Debbie Elder was found dead in her hotel room in Phoenix, Ariz. This event affected her family, students at
CHS, and the teachers, especially those in the math department.
“We’re very sad, it’s like losing a family member. It just doesn’t seem like it’s real, doesn’t seem like it can be real,” said math teacher Jennifer Walls.
The members of the math department were notified late Saturday by department chair Susan Drozdoff after administration was notified by Elder’s family.
“Mr. Beck contacted the department chairs. I wanted to be able to personally talk to the rest of the department rather than have them find out by email,” Drozdoff said. “As difficult as it was, the one thing I try to take away from it was that she was really loved and will be missed.”
“It’s just devastating. When Mrs. Drozdoff called, I knew it couldn’t be good. To find out it was one of my friends… I don’t know what’s worse,” Walls recalled.
The closeness of those in the math department made the loss of Elder even more painful. “Our department is really close. We’re all friends outside of school,” said Walls, adding that Elder had been at her wedding and at every one of her parties and get-togethers.
“We were pretty close. She was my mentor and my neighbor and my friend,” math teacher, Shanell Cavener recalled. “It’s hard just not seeing her where she should be. I wouldn’t be teaching here if it wasn’t for her. She had a big heart and was always there for anyone who needed her,” Cavener also said.
The loss of their friend made it very difficult for the staff to come to school on Tuesday. Many teachers, as well as students, could be seen crying throughout the day. “I think we’re all just trying to be a little gentler, a little kinder. The kids have been really awesome today,” said Walls. “I’m just trying to keep to the routine but also let the students know that if they need to talk, we’ll make that happen,” Cavener added.
Drozdoff said that Elder’s death leaves a definite hole in the school. “I think that as a whole, not only was she a wonderful teacher, but she also coordinated the tutoring and found tutors for the MASH department. It’s going to be very difficult to replace her as a teacher. As a friend it’s impossible. I enjoyed working with her. It was always nice to be able to rely on her for advice and to also be able to rely on her many years of teaching. She touched a lot of teachers’ lives in a lot of different ways.”
Walls agreed. “She had a quiet way about her, but I still always looked to her for approval. She was tough on kids for a purpose. She was trying to make them better,” Walls said.