Washington County students cope with teachers' deaths

November 03, 2009|By DAVE McMILLION and DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- A crisis team will be at Conococheague Elementary and Boonsboro Middle schools today to help students and teachers at each school cope with the death of one of their own.

Niki Queen-Rhoderick, 57, a kindergarten teacher at Conococheague, became the second Washington County Public Schools teacher to die in the past five days when she passed away at Washington County Hospital at about 6 a.m. Tuesday.

Jennifer Cameron, 25, an English teacher at Boonsboro Middle, died in a car accident Friday night.

Queen-Rhoderick last week contracted H1N1, also known as swine flu, but she died after being treated for several illnesses, her husband Phil Rhoderick said Tuesday night.

"She was the love of my life. She changed my life," Rhoderick said.

The couple met through and married in June, he said.

During a Washington County Board of Education meeting Tuesday, Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan recognized Queen-Rhoderick and Cameron.


"We're mourning for both of them," Morgan said. "We sent our condolences to both of their families."

Rhoderick said his wife contracted a sore throat more than a week ago. Last Wednesday, she went to Smithsburg Medical Center for tests, he said. She continued to be ill, had a temperature of about 103 degrees and couldn't keep her medicine down, Rhoderick said.

She became dehydrated, he said, and when he told a nurse about that condition, the nurse suggested Queen-Rhoderick be taken to the hospital.

On Thursday, she was taken to Washington County Hospital, where she underwent blood tests and was placed in intensive care, Rhoderick said. He said his wife's doctor said at the hospital that she had contracted H1N1.

Rhoderick said doctors told him his wife's temperature eventually wiped out the H1N1 in her body, but she developed other complications, including pneumonia.

"It was the worst combination," he said.

Conococheague Principal Ryan Hench said he learned Tuesday morning of Queen-Rhoderick's death and met shortly thereafter with staff members to break the news.

"It's going to be tough for my teachers and students," Hench said. "She was very well loved ... My ultimate goal is to respect her family and take care of her kids here."

Hench said Queen-Rhoderick began teaching at Conococheague last year.

Michael Pavlik, who taught kindergarten with Queen-Rhoderick at Conococheague, said she was a very dedicated teacher and had a wealth of experience as an instructor. She taught for more than a decade in public and private schools and also was a great resource with good ideas, Pavlik said.

"The kids were just crazy about her," Pavlik said.

Before moving to Conococheague, Queen-Rhoderick taught at Eastern Elementary School and worked in the central office on Commonwealth Avenue in Hagerstown.

"She was a wonderful person. She had more faith than anybody I knew, and she'll be a huge loss not only to our school but to Washington County in general," said Heidi Harshman of Hagerstown, a first-grade teacher at Conococheague who last year taught kindergarten there.

Staff writer Julie E. Greene contributed to this story.

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