A community in mourning after the sudden death of a 3rd grade teacher in Madison County. The school district says Kattie Brocato died of COVID-19.
It was a difficult day for students and teachers at Lynn Fanning Elementary School, where Mrs. Brocato taught. One student says it was all people were talking about.
"All of the teachers were talking about it. That some teacher was passing away, stuff like that, because of COVID," 4th grade student Zailey Leininger said.
She had Mrs. Brocato as a teacher last year. When she got home after school, her mom told her the devastating news.
"I'm kind of feeling sad about it," Zailey said.
Her third-grade teacher meant a lot to her.
"A nice, generous teacher who will always be in everybody's hearts," is how Zailey described Brocato.
Lynn Fanning's principal described Mrs. Brocato as "a wonderful teacher who always smiled and looked for the best in others. She gave all of her heart to her students and will be truly missed."
Mrs. Brocato also taught at other schools like Endeavor Elementary and Madison Crossroads. There will be extra counselors available at all those schools to help people deal with the sudden loss.
Unfortunately, Mrs. Brocato is not the only educator to lose her life to COVID-19. The Alabama Education Association says as of Monday morning they've had 61 deaths in schools across the state.
"We're all just heartbroken that we lost another educator to COVID," Beverly Sims said.
Sims is the local district director for the Alabama Education Association. She says she's gotten a lot of calls and messages from other teachers with concerns about COVID safety.
"I guess their fears were realized," Sims explained.
She says they all just want to go back to normal, but knows they aren't there yet. She hopes Mrs. Brocato's death encourages people to get the COVID vaccine.
"It's really sad that it takes someone's death. Someone who has a lot of friends and close to a lot of people to wake people up to go get the vaccine," Sims said. "I hope if there's anything good that comes out of this precious person's death is that more people would get the vaccine in her honor. "
As for Zailey, she's going to keep taking the necessary precautions to stay safe.
"Just wearing masks whenever we go to school, and then I think we're good," Zailey said.