Suburban high school honors beloved retired teacher who died of COVID-19

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BROOKFIELD, Ill. —  A retired west suburban teacher who passed away from COVID-19 was honored by the school community where she touched many lives.

Kimberly Hayes, a longtime educator, was so beloved within the Riverside Brookfield school community that she passed into the next life with a touching gesture. Hayes was taken off life support when the last bell rang at Riverside Brookfield High School last Friday. But the community is still mourning the loss of one of their own.

“She always made decisions in the best interests of the students,” said Riverside Brookfield Asst. Superintendent Kristin Smetana.

Kind, gentle and graceful is how Smetana described the fallen retiree. She considered Hayes a friend and mentor who helped her acclimate to Riverside Brookfield.

Hayes taught first-year students for 33 years. She also took on roles as an assistant principal. Mourners described her as a passionate educator who made learning fun and a voracious reader who loved books. She also helped students publish the yearbook. Seniors at Riverside Brookfield knew her well.

“We did a moment of silence for her on Monday,” Smetana said. “The family is setting up a scholarship for our senior class in her honor and then we’re also looking to honor her in other ways as well.”

Kimberly Hayes

Hayes retired in 2019 and would move to Florida to teach in Key West. She first became ill this past summer and had been on life support for about a month. Doctors removed her from life support at 3:05 p.m. last Friday, Oct.1, when the final bell of the week rang at Riverside Brookfield.

She died 13 minutes later. Hayes was 58.

On Monday, the late teacher was honored by Riverside Brookfield attendees in a moment of silence. 

“Kimberly always worked really hard to build a community of learners in her classroom. One of her strengths was she would meet students and teachers and colleagues where they were at and always accepted people for who they were,” Smetana said.

Visitation and funeral for Hayes have been scheduled for Thursday and Friday, respectively.

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