‘Everyone loved her:’ Adored West Florence High School teacher dies from COVID-19

Pee Dee

FLORENCE, S.C. (WBTW) — A beloved West Florence High School teacher died over the weekend from COVID-19, her family says.

Dorothy Gerald has been an educator for over four decades at West Florence, where she was a consumer family and science teacher.

Courtesy: Roberta Gerald Ellison

“Everyone loved her,” West Florence high senior Carley Stewart said. “Everyone loved her. She was so sweet. She made sure everyone was okay.”

On Stewart’s first ever day of high school, she was greeted by Ms. Gerald for her first class. Her warmness erased any first-day nerves.

“And I would just be so excited to go in and I would be like, ‘this woman makes my day,'” Stewart said. “She has such a positive attitude.”

Gerald was 68-years-old when she died, according to her family. Even after decades of teaching, they had no knowledge of her planning to retire anytime soon.

“She taught stuff that wasn’t by the book, stuff we could carry through life,” 2013 graduate of West Florence DeVon Ford said. “That’s what I remember most about her, just her impact on us as individuals.”

Ford is now a visual artist based out of Rock Hill.

“She was one of the few Black teachers I had coming up,” Ford said. “In my class specifically I remember a great percentage of us were Black. And you know that representation really matters to students of color.”

Gerald was also advisor to the Sensational Knight Steppers, a group Katera Graham Wilson was once captain of.

Courtesy: Roberta Gerald Ellison

“Ms. Gerald, if you didn’t give me the courage to keep going and if you didn’t… motivate me when I was in high school, I wouldn’t have followed my dreams at all,” she said.

Family members say that in addition to being an amazing teacher, she was a ‘devoted wife, a superb mother and a super exceptional grandmother.’

Here’s the full statement from the West Florence principal Matthew Dowdell:

It is with a heavy heart that we share the news of the passing of our beloved teacher, Dorothy Gerald.

Ms. Gerald was a pillar of West Florence High School for over 40 years.  Her dedication and commitment to our students, teachers, and the community will live on in our hearts.  The wisdom she shared and her charismatic personality will be greatly missed by all.  We will have grief counselors in our building tomorrow for any students or staff that need someone to mourn with.  When more information becomes available about arrangements I will pass it on to everyone. Please keep her family in your thoughts and prayers during this tragic time. 

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