Math teacher Todd Wood of Sale Creek Middle/High School died of COVID-19 on Sept. 28, the first educator fatality confirmed during the COVID-19 pandemic at Hamilton County Schools.
Wood, 48, battled the coronavirus for a month and was hospitalized, Sale Creek Principal LeAnn Welch told the Times Free Press on Friday.
Even while quarantined, Wood taught students, she said.
"That's been a really hard thing for our teachers to absorb and our students, it's just been, it's really tough on our students because he's been with them," Welch said. "That's one of the hardest things I've ever been through as a principal."
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Welch said that Wood's hobbies included photography - a hobby they shared - and that he enjoyed working as a river guide on the Ocoee River for over 20 years.
In a Q&A on the Ocoee Inn Rafting website, Wood said he had loved being on the river since childhood, and that one of his most adventurous experiences was taking a two-week road trip with a friend to ride as many roller coasters as they could.
"I have ridden over 100 roller coasters," he said on the website.
Welch said Wood loved "Star Wars" and decorated his classroom with "Star Wars" and Marvel characters. His nickname was Yoda, according to the Ocoee Inn website.
"[He was an] all-around good guy and especially connected with students [with] disabilities and students that struggled in math," Welch said.
Sale Creek is the second school in the North River Learning Community mourning the loss of a school community member due to COVID-19, following the passing of a Sequoyah High School student who was hospitalized for a month.
Hamilton County Schools issued a mask mandate this school year with an option for parents to opt their children out of the public health measure, which works best with universal compliance.
Both schools had student mask opt-out rates above the district's average, which was 13.6% as of Sept. 28. As of Aug. 25, Sale Creek's student mask opt-out rate was the highest in the district at nearly 60%.
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Welch said that Wood's family confirmed that he was not vaccinated against COVID-19.
"He was not. And his family gave me permission to share that he was not," Welch said. "Much regretted by all.
"Please share," the principal added, "because maybe someone will consider because of your story. It breaks my heart. We have an amazing Sale Creek family, and I pray we never lose another."
Districtwide, a little more than two-thirds of teachers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Hamilton County Schools COVID-19 data dashboard.
The Sale Creek community held a memorial service for Wood last week, and an obituary for Wood said that he loved teaching math, cooking and teaching his daughter to cook.
According to the Ocoee Inn website, Wood grew up in Michigan and Florida and came to Cleveland, Tennessee, where he graduated from Lee University. He still lived in Cleveland.
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His obituary noted that he was survived by his wife, Jennifer Adam-Wood, and daughter, Amelia Joyce Wood, among others.
When asked in the Ocoee Rafting Q&A what or who inspired him, Wood said his daughter.
"Several things that are now hobbies started out as things she wanted to do together," he said. "She inspires me to be the best person I can."
Contact Anika Chaturvedi at email@example.com or 423-757-6592.