By Jeanne Sager
FALLSBURG December 2, 2003 A whole classroom of kids returning from vacation brimming with stories will have to share their Thanksgiving tales with a substitute this week.
Benjamin Cosor Elementary School third grade teacher Brian Steeves didnt make it into school last Wednesday. On his way to work, the Kingston man, 39, died in a two-car crash on Route 209.
According to police, his Honda was struck by a Kia driven by Matilda Bottiglieri of Kerhonkson when she crossed over into Steeves lane, hitting him head-on.
According to Fallsburg Superintendent Walter Milton Jr., plans to break the news to the children were immediately put into place.
Parents of Steeves students were called, and all of them arrived at the Benjamin Cosor school to help break the news to the children.
When the children were brought in to hear the news, the parents were on hand to comfort their kids and allowed to take them home, Milton explained.
The district also called in grief counselors from Orange-Ulster BOCES and put its own internal crisis team to work immediately to help Steeves coworkers deal with the tragedy.
Steeves will be remembered as a great teacher, Milton said.
He served as a role model to his students, he explained. They looked up to him, and they looked forward to seeing him every morning.
Teaching for the past two years in Fallsburg, Steeves made a career change late in life.
He came from a family of educators, and he felt as though hed found his calling, Milton noted.
His principal, Allan Lipsky, thought the world of him.
A funeral was held in Kingston on Saturday, but the district is planning a memorial service for students, parents and faculty. No date has yet been set.
Meanwhile, the children are being offered grief counseling.
And were cognizant of some of their behaviors, that they are related to what has happened, and allowing them to express how they feel, Milton explained.
With a substitute teacher in the classroom and a search already started for a full-time staffer, the district is trying to make the children feel as normal as possible.
Milton said he hopes to find a teacher who is similar to Steeves to give the children a feeling of continuity.
This is truly a tragedy, he said. It really has put us in a strange space.
Milton said the district is drafting a letter to Steeves family to thank them for his commitment to the students and offer their deepest condolences.