Trinity ISD faculty, students mourn loss of art teacher killed in wreck

Isaiah Mendoza (Source: Dave Plymale)
Isaiah Mendoza (Source: Dave Plymale)

TRINITY, TX (KTRE) - Trinity ISD's faculty and students are mourning the loss of one of their own tonight.

Art teacher Isaiah Mendoza was killed Monday morning after he lost control of his car on Highway 21 just outside of Bastrop. He was on his way back to Trinity from Austin.

"They knew how much he cared," said Chris Ulcak, the Trinity High School principal. "He truly was one of those special individuals."

Isaiah Mendoza not only painted images of success on school walls; he painted them in the students' hearts.

"He was always at one student's desk helping," said Jennifer Kempton, a counselor at Trinity High School. "He never sat down. He was just this high energy, positive person."

Mendoza died early Monday morning driving back from Austin. By that afternoon, it was a somber mood on campus.

"It was Monday, but there's some things you don't want to find out on Monday," Ulcak said.

When students learned of their favorite teacher's passing, they wanted to do something to honor him. They came up with a wall of sticky notes with their messages to him.

Each note is a personal reminder of how much he touched their lives.

"They wanted to do something with their grief, and they came up with this idea that since Mr. Mendoza was such a positive person, they wanted to try to continue his legacy." Kempton said.

"It made me feel proud of my students," Ulcak said. But it was not very … it was tough." Then, after a pause, he said, "Well, you know, I wrote one myself and put it up there and just had my own message to pass along."

The students also wrote letters that will be given to Mendoza's parents.

The staff knows the day will come when a new teacher takes over Mr. Mendoza's classroom, but they say now is not that time. When it does come, he will be hard to replace.

"You're not frequently counted by what you do in life but by what you leave behind, and he's leaving behind a pretty strong legacy of some fantastic students," Ulcak said.

Thursday, Oct. 17, the district will have a tree planting ceremony in front of the high school at 2:45 p.m. They say it is a way Mendoza's name will never leave the memory.

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