Brian Zychowski Superintendent Resume

Grief counselors brought into North Brunswick middle school after teacher dies in accident

NORTH BRUNSWICK - Bright, gifted and unique.

Colleagues and students on Thursday remembered Linwood Middle School teacher Aubrey Pappas as someone unforgettable and irreplaceable, someone who touched the lives of those she worked with and those she taught in her 13-year presence in the district.

“She was the only teacher I worked with who had the skillset to be able to teach three different grade levels,” said school principal Dr. Brian Brotschul, a colleague for 15 years.

"It's a very unique situation Mrs. Pappas was in," Brotschul said. "She was revered by her students and her colleagues, beyond what you could ever imagine."

Pappas, 35, died Wednesday in a single-vehicle accident after the car she was driving struck a tree in South Brunswick. She died at the scene of the 1:55 p.m. crash.

Police say the death is under investigation.

Late Thursday, police released a statement saying an autopsy was complete and the body had been identified as Pappas.

Hired in 2001, Pappas was a language arts teacher who “looped” with her students, meaning she remained with the same group from sixth grade through the end of eighth grade - a task not many teachers are trained to perform.

"She was a wonderful teacher and a very special lady," said North Brunswick Superintendent Dr. Brian Zychowski.

The superintendent said he informed parents of Pappas death Wednesday via email and phone message.

“There is a lot of grieving going on,” Zychowski said. “She had such an impact on students and staff. It's a very difficult time in our community and the Linwood community. "

The Middlesex County Traumatic Loss Coalition - a network of counselors offering support to professionals who work with youth - was at Linwood School on Thursday.

Grief counselors also made their way around other schools in the district, where Pappas has many close friends in teaching positions, along with former students, Zychowski said.

Lois Sirna, a school secretary who worked with Pappas for 11 years, said many of the teachers went home before noon Thursday.

"The children are upset in the halls," Sirna said. “Things are not going well. She was a sweetheart and the children came first with her. She was always for the kids. "

Twelve years ago, Pappas founded a video production club at Linwood, teaching children how to handle cameras, narrate and edit a production, according to the principal.

Many of her students continued their video production studies when they went to North Brunswick High School.

“She was able to expose hundreds of children to film production at the middle school level and set them up for great success at the high school,” Brotschul said.

The principal and superintendent said they decided against canceling classes the day after Pappas ’death because they wanted the children to retain a sense of normalcy.

"At Linwood a lot of the kids feel it's family here," Brotschul said. "We felt it was important to open our doors today."