PHOENIX - October 16th was the first day of school since the discovery of the body of missing Kindergarten teacher, Cathyrn Gorospe. She'd been missing for a week. On October 13th, what appears to be her remains were found, confirming everyone's worst fears, that she was likely murdered. Cathryn leaves behind a classroom full of young children and an entire school that loved and respected her.
Deer Valley School district officials say they informed students at Arrowhead Elementary School of the tragic news. Exactly what was said to the children was not released.
Counselors, psychologists and even comfort dogs were in kindergarten classrooms, providing support. Behavioral experts say this is a unique tragedy. It's extremely rare for a large gorup of kindergarteners to go through such a traumatic event, all at once.
Teachers and students returned to the school with heavy hearts. How does one tell a classroom full of kindergarteners that they will never see their teacher again?
"We're talking about 5 to 6-year-old children who may not have a whole sense of what death is," said Jackie Uhlemann, Clinical Director of Building Blocks Counseling. "Permanency isn't part of their developmental stage."
Professional counselors advise less is best. According to school district officials, a brief statement of facts would be shared with the students Monday morning, and the school is focusing on coming together to support one another. Instead of talking about death, counselors will likely talk about celebrating the life of their beloved teacher.
"Talk about her.. what did they like about her, what did they remember most about her?" said Uhlemann.
Those students who are deeply impacted may struggle with learning.
"That's one of the effects of trauma.. always is.. anxiety does interfere with the ability to learn new things, so they may even notice a kid that's quiet doesn't show any signs, might notice his grades drop," explained Uhlemann.
Parents should be on the lookout for signs in their children, such as not wanting to go to school, feeling more lethargic and misbehaving could indicate they're suffering from trauma or depression. It's also normal if kids don't feel sad.
Again, at 5 to 6-years-old, some children may not have a sense of permanency, so they might just move on without a second though.