Counselors return to Salem High School after death of popular English teacher


SALEM — Counselors returned to Salem High School today to continue offering help to those students and staff grieving the loss of popular high school English teacher Jody McCracken, who passed away Monday morning.

“Jody McCracken is one of the most beloved teachers ever in the history of Salem High School,” Superintendent Sean Kirkland said. “She taught college writing and the kids coming out of her classes were extremely prepared for the next level.”

Kirkland, the administrative team and counselors went room to room and notified the students personally. They didn’t want the students finding out through social media when news of her death started circulating, so Kirkland prepared a statement and they started the grim task of notification.

“We wanted to make sure they heard it from someone they were familiar with,” he said.

The students knew McCracken was ill, all donning orange, her favorite color, to honor her at the homecoming pep rally. She was supposed to be a chaperone for the dance, but had suffered a heart attack the weekend before. Kirkland last spoke to her the night the Quakers traveled to Carrollton, when she served as a chaperone on the band bus. They had talked about homecoming.

“In losing Jody, we’ve lost one of the most caring and selfless individuals who has touched the lives of so many students, family, and friends. When tragedy happens to good people, we begin to question why. None of us have the answer to that question, so in order to cope with our loss, we have to trust in our faith and in the fond memories of Mrs. McCracken. Her wish is to have a celebration of her life. So as we grieve, let’s remember the joy and assistance that Mrs. McCracken provided to so many students and staff alike. Let’s celebrate the life of Mrs. McCracken and remember her smile, positive attitude, and giving spirit. We also have to work together, as she would want us to, and find understanding and compassion within our souls to help each other through this terrible situation,” Kirkland wrote in his statement.

As an example of how much students respected her, he said out of 75 seniors she had the one year, 72 invited her to their graduation parties. She was also selected at least four times by Salem students as a Star Educator at the Heads Above the Rest recognition for top students and teachers sponsored by the Columbiana County Educational Service Center.

“They loved her,” he said.

At least nine counselors were on hand Monday at the Junior/Senior High School to help out, along with others, if students wanted to talk.

McCracken, 43, started her career at Salem in 1999, teaching English, college writing and also eighth grade English. She leaves behind her husband, Dennis, and daughter Angela, a freshman at Salem High School, along with other family, friends, her co-workers and her students.

“She was just phenomenal,” Kirkland said.