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Colleagues begin school year without beloved teacher who passed away from coronavirus

Tricia Larson died in July but her presence is still felt in the hallways of the elementary school where she taught.

WEBSTER COUNTY, Iowa — Tricia Larson would have been beginning her thirty-second year as a teacher in Iowa. Instead, her fellow educators at Manson Northwest Webster Elementary School have started such an unprecedented school year without their co-worker and friend by their side.

"She was so good at really knowing her kids as individuals," said Jan Nelson, a teacher at the school. "She loved her job. It was a passion for her, this was her calling. She was an amazing teacher. I don't know how else to say it. I learned a lot from her."

Larson's passion was teaching kindergarten. She grew up in the community she taught in and even attended the same school where she taught hundreds of children through the years.

"She was so determined to do anything she could to meet her kids' needs emotionally and academically," said Jodi Jacobson, an instructional coach who worked closely with Larson. "They loved her and she loved them."

On July 7, Larson passed away after contracting COVID-19. She leaves behind a husband and three children. She was 55 years old.

The first week of classes began at Manson Northwest Webster in late August, looking different not only because teachers and students were wearing masks, but also because Larson was not in her normal room, welcoming new students.

"Corona or not, I still have a hard time believing that she is not here," said Nelson. "Parts of my days are like nightmares just because I think, I walk in her room and think she's gonna be there. And with the corona...yeah, it was very, very shocking."

Jacobson agreed the first few days back have been tough.

"It's like she's still in these halls," said Jacobson. "I feel like I might turn the corner and she's there. It's it's still hard to believe that she's not here because she was such a big part of our teaching family."

1,135 Iowans have passed away from coronavirus to date.