Santa Rosa teacher remembered as ‘amazing’
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A new teacher is lined up. First-grade parents have been called and alerted. Counselors are set to be in place when students in the Piner-Olivet Union School District start the new year today.
The sudden death Sunday of elementary school teacher and longtime Santa Rosan Matt Sokol, 41, has rent a hole in many hearts. But officials at the district where Sokol taught for 10 years hope to ensure a seamless transition for his students as they return to class this year.
They include the kids Sokol taught over the past two years at Jack London Elementary School, and the 24 younger ones who would have greeted him at nearby Schaefer Charter School for his initiation into teaching first grade, district Superintendent Jennie Snyder said.
“I think he would have just loved it,” said Sokol’s mother, Michelle Sokol.
Sokol, married just two weeks earlier, died of sudden cardiac arrest after collapsing as he left the soccer pitch during a club match Sunday at Northwest Community Park in Santa Rosa.
Doctors said he apparently suffered ventricular fibrillation, or severe arrhythmia, that even an electrocardiogram might not have predicted, his mother said.
Another experienced teacher who previously taught at Schaefer and has worked with the other first grade teachers has stepped in to take his classroom this year, Snyder said.
Sokol did his student teaching at Schaefer school before he was hired at now-closed Piner Elementary School, where his colleagues included the woman he wed Aug. 4, Sarah Klein. She is now a special education teacher and yoga instructor, friends and family members said.
New to the profession and thus vulnerable to the vagaries of school budgets, Sokol taught at Piner for several years before moving on to Jack London when it closed, and then finally to Schaefer.
“He was known by pretty much everyone in the district,” Schaefer Principal Joe Hamp said.
A district-wide faculty meeting held Monday served, in part, as an opportunity for teachers and staff to reflect on Sokol’s death, school officials said.
Among their remembrances, Snyder said, was that Sokol connected “so well with kids that even kids that weren’t necessarily in his classroom but (were) on the campus, these kids really seek out Mr. Sokol for a high-five — that he really had an impact far beyond his classroom.”
“He was an amazing teacher,” she said.
A celebration of Sokol’s life is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday in the gym at Montgomery High School, his alma mater.
You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 521-5249 or firstname.lastname@example.org.