SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Educators at DeRenne Middle School in Savannah and many people in the community are mourning the death of longtime science teacher Angela Sistrunk, who died of COVID-19 on Saturday.

“She was the matriarch. She was the rock for new and old teachers. We could count on her for anything,” said Alana Sandefur, who is a sixth-grade social studies teacher at the school.

Sandefur says she met Miss Sistrunk four years ago when she came to DeRenne Middle and worked with her, as Sistrunk taught sixth-grade science.

She says Sistrunk taught generations about the fundamentals of science.

“A lot of the parents of kids, she taught. So anytime we had a conference, they were like, ‘Miss Sistrunk, I had you in sixth grade and now you’re teaching my son or daughter’, so it was a tribute to her,” said Sandefur.

“She had an old-school way of presenting the material and kids loved it,” Sandefur continued. “Even if they hated science, they loved going to her. She made it funny, she made it comical, she made it interesting, and she made all those kids feel loved and special.”

Like other teachers, Sistrunk had returned to the classroom this year and had been vaccinated, but, according to Sandefur, also had some pre-existing medical issues.

“We want to be in the classroom with those kids, that is why we teach, that is why Miss Sistrunk went back for the last year, you know, she loves the kids,” said Sandefur.

Sandefur says she knows the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System is doing the best it can, but she does hope the tragedy may prompt officials to think about their policy of in-person learning.

“I’m just saying, maybe let’s reconsider teachers that have been dedicated to you for 30 years that are one year away from retiring and high risk. Maybe just maybe, let’s single them out and find a solution that can benefit both parties so this doesn’t happen again,” said Sandefur.

Last year, staff with medical issues were able to apply for in-person exemptions. It’s not clear if that was the case for the 2021 school year and if so if Sistrunk asked for such an exemption.

“I just want people to understand that she was the best of the best and that all teachers should have her dedication and love,” said Sandefur.

DeRenne Middle School gave WSAV News 3 the following statement on Sistrunk’s death:

We are saddened by the loss of our team member and we are dedicated to educating the students she loved and devoted her life to. She was a staple in DeRenne having served in this building for 20+ years and will be missed by all.

T. Broadnax, principal