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Winkelman school district remembers beloved teacher who died from COVID-19

Kimberly Byrd was teaching a virtual summer school class in a room that she shared with two other teachers. They all caught COVID-19 and Byrd died from the virus.

PHOENIX — “Just a fabulous teacher. A wonderful person.” 

That’s how Jeff Gregorich, superintendent of the Hayden Winkleman Unified School District, describes Kimberly Byrd.

Colleagues describe Byrd as a dedicated teacher at Leonor Hambly Middle School in Winkelman, about 70 miles north of Tucson.

“Every student was important to her,” said Gregorich.

The first-grade teacher is one of thousands in Arizona to lose her life to the COVID-19 virus. She may have unknowingly passed it onto two of her fellow teachers while they were teaching a summer class online.

“They were wearing masks. Wiping down. They had their own devices, but they shared a room,” said Gregorich.

The teachers even taking extra precautions because one of the teachers was a cancer survivor.

Byrd thought she had a nasal infection that turned out to be the coronavirus – she passed away the following weekend. The other teachers later tested positive.

According to the superintendent, Jena Martinez-Inzunza has recovered and Angela Skillings is still battling the virus. They were the other teachers who used the classroom.

This tragedy makes the upcoming school year scary for educators.

“Using all those precautions they couldn’t keep each other safe. We just imagine putting 15 or 20 students in a classroom all day long,” said Gregorich.

Byrd always looked for solutions as a teacher. Now, she’s left a legacy, too.

“Even with her absence. She is still finding a way for us to pause and to figure out what’s important and what best for our students,” said Pamela Gonzalez, principal at Leonor Hambly Middle School.

The superintendent says Byrd’s immediate family members are recovering from COVID-19 -- but she has a brother who’s in the hospital with it.

RELATED: Remembering some of the Arizonans we lost to COVID-19