VANCLEAVE, Miss. (WLOX) - Respected Jackson County teacher Thomas Slade died on Sunday from complications related to COVID-19.
On Tuesday the American flag in front of Vancleave High School was flying at half staff. Junior Chase Hall was shocked to hear about the death of the beloved history teacher and patriotic bulldog.
“It’s like a gut punch really. He was a man I respected. I looked forward to him coming back to the classroom and then he was gone," Hall said. "I saw him two weeks ago and he looked fine, and now he’s gone. It was a shock. I just sat in my room the rest of the night.”
Slade’s signature aroma of maple syrup and fresh coffee still lingers alongside historical artifacts that line the bookshelves inside of classroom 213, where Slade quickly built relationships with students.
“Mr. Slade was definitely one of a kind. He knew how to bond with his kids," said junior Patricia Morgan. "Even if he’d known them for two seconds, you couldn’t help but automatically be attached to him.”
Slade transformed his classroom into a sanctuary, and Vancleave High School Principal Raina Holmes said Slade brought history to life and lent a helping hand to anyone in need.
“He always had coffee available for teachers. If they wanted to come and sit and talk, he would counsel them. He’d counsel students when they needed to," Holmes said. "This is kind of a historic place for us on our campus, and it’s just going to be very difficult to see it break away.”
Slade had a caring personality that junior Olivia Johnston said extended far beyond the classroom.
“I really think a lot of people will just remember him as an amazing teacher, and I feel like he affected everyone’s life. Not just as a teacher, just being an amazing person," Johnston said. "He was always there for his students no matter what.”
A GoFundMe page was created by the Vancleave High Class of 2021. As of Wednesday morning, over $10,000 had been donated for Slade’s wife and children.
“The world has lost one of the best educators. As his students, our lives are better due to his love of teaching. He was one of kind! As a community, we want to pull together and support his family during this difficult time,” reads the GoFundMe page for Slade.
The Jackson County School District released the following statement regarding Slade’s death:
"Vancleave High School lost an amazing part of our school and community yesterday. Please continue to remember the family of Tom Slade during this difficult time of his passing. He was a true representation of a Vancleave Bulldog and we will forever miss his wisdom, wittiness, love for all students, and love for his school family. We love you, Mr. Slade, and are so thankful for your impact on our school and community
"The Jackson County School District cares deeply about the safety of our students, staff, and school community. The district leadership team of about 30 members reviews COVID-19 data and protocols on a weekly basis - and has for the past several months - to ensure the ongoing safety of our JCSD school community.
"Jackson County School District follows all local, state, and federal mandates, laws, and Executive Orders to further ensure the safety and wellbeing of our students, COVID-19 related or not.
“For additional detailed information regarding district processes related to COVID-19, please visit our Reopening Resource Guide.”