Second-grade teacher Kevin Grover holds his 2010 Maine Teacher of the Year award in this Thursday, Sept. 17, 2009 file photo taken at D.W. Lunt School in Falmouth. Grover died suddenly at age 40 on Thanksgiving.
By Gillian Graham
FALMOUTH – Kevin Grover, Maine's 2010 Teacher of the Year, died on Thanksgiving Day after returning from a run.
Grover, 40, a second-grade teacher at Falmouth Elementary School, collapsed and died of a heart attack while visiting family members in Rangeley, school officials said Friday.
He was remembered as a creative, engaging teacher who was loved by students and teachers. He was known for sending funny emails to other teachers and rewarding students with luaus, disco dances and popcorn parties.
"There are people, I think, who are born to be teachers, and that was him," said Carrie Riley, whose daughter, Patty, was in Grover's class this year. "He is, to that class, a hero, and any student that's ever had him would say the exact same thing."
Falmouth's school community is stunned by Grover's death, said John Flaherty, Falmouth Elementary School's co-principal, who met Friday with other teachers from the school.
"He was all about the kids, just all about the kids," Flaherty said. "He built a community of mutual respect. His students loved him."
In addition to teaching, Grover served as the second-grade team leader, running meetings that Flaherty said were productive and full of laughter.
"We've lost not just a fabulous colleague, but a good friend," he said.
School officials said they will develop a plan to support students and staff members when they return Monday from the Thanksgiving holiday.
Counselors and social workers will be available to meet with students and staff members, and a section of the library will be set aside for people who need time to reflect and grieve.
The Center for Grieving Children in Portland will provide the school with grief counselors and resources, Flaherty said.
Riley said all of the parents of Grover's students got calls and emails with the news, asking them to talk with their children and informing them about a substitute for the class.
Riley said her family has been out of town but will speak with Patty on Saturday.
"They're 7," she said of the students in the class. "That's the worst thing about it, most of them are 7."
Riley said she's not sure how she will speak to her daughter about it but expects Patty will have many questions.
She noted that Grover was about the same age as most parents of children in the class and was physically fit, often hiking and doing other outdoor activities. So the students are likely to wonder if this could happen to other people they know and love, Riley said.
"It's not only the loss of an amazing teacher, but for the children, it's a very scary thing for them," she said.
Grover's family plans a memorial service Dec. 1 at Falmouth Elementary. Those who attend will be asked to bring food to donate to a local food pantry, honoring Grover's practice of involving students in community service.
Flaherty said he and co-Principal Karen Boffa notified the parents of all 900 students in the school about Grover's death.
"We feel like we've lost a family member," he said. "The effects are going to be felt for a long, long time."
Superintendent Barbara Powers said Grover's death was tragic.
"Kevin was a unique and gifted teacher who cared deeply about his students and about his profession," Powers said in an email. "His first love, however, was family and our hearts go out to his wife and two children."
Grover was a Greene native who earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education from the University of Maine at Farmington and a master's degree in early literacy from the University of Southern Maine.
After he was presented with the Teacher of the Year award, he said he shared the honor with all of the teachers in his life, past and present.
"It's about listening and allowing everyone in the school community to have a voice -- students, parents, teachers, everyone," he told the Portland Press Herald in September 2009. "Learning has to be a team effort."
Grover, who lived in Falmouth, is survived by his wife, Rebecca, and their two children -- a son in third grade at Falmouth Elementary School and a daughter in sixth grade at Falmouth Middle School.
-- Staff Writer Edward Murphy contributed to this article.
Staff Writer Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at: