CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Teachers and students at a West Side charter school were forced to confront a difficult and painful life lesson Monday.
Richard Luna, a teacher at the Dr. M.L. Garza-Gonzalez Charter School, was killed Saturday in a crash police said was caused by a suspected drunk driver. Luna was 41 years old.
Everyone at Garza-Gonzalez was devastated Monday. Colleagues said Luna made an incredible impact there in a short time, and his loss is felt by staff, students, and parents alike.
“Mr. Luna was a gem amongst our profession,” said Garza-Gonzalez Superintendent Deedee Bernal.
Luna’s classroom was closed and dark Monday, his students sent to different classes.
The third-. fourth- and fifth-grade math teacher, who also taught GED classes at the Education Service Center, tragically was killed in a crash near Weber and Holly roads on Saturday.
His death has left a void with everyone he knew.
“Richard always had a smile upon his face, and he worked endless hours to help his children, his students, here,” Bernal said.
As well as being Luna's boss, Bernal has known him since he was a young boy, as did colleague and close friend Juan Salazar.
“We would joke around with one another a lot, call each other out of the blue, just to say something funny, and then hang up,” he said. "(He was a) phenomenal teacher, phenomenal educator. (He) cared more about his children than he cared about himself."
Luna’s impact on Garza-Gonzalez came in a relatively short time, having barely worked at the school a year. His absence, however, will be felt for many years to come.
“He gifted us with his presence, his positivity, and what he brought to our children,” said Bernal, who described Luna as a “rarity” in the teaching profession.
Bernal believes it will be difficult to find a teacher to fill Luna’s shoes.
“Our school was extremely fortunate to have had him come to our school,” she said.
The flag outside the Dr. M.L. Garza-Gonzalez Charter School will fly at half staff until further notice in tribute to Luna. There's also a table set up inside, where students and colleagues can leave messages.
The school also brought in counselors from the Corpus Christi and Tuloso-Midway school districts to help anyone struggling with the loss.