Mary Alicia Shanks was an energetic teacher, family matriarch

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(Host) The two women who died in Thursday’s shooting rampage were both teachers. One of them, Mary Alicia Shanks, was a second grade teacher at Essex Elementary School.

VPR’s Lynne McCrea reports.

(McCrea) While children play in a quiet Essex neighborhood, Krista Mashrick thinks back to four years ago, when her son’s second grade teacher was Alicia Shanks.

(Mashrick) “Full of energy. Max loved her. She was one of his favorite teachers.”

(McCrea) Mashrick was a weekly volunteer in her son’s classroom that year. She describes it as a happy and boisterous environment:

(Mashrick) “The classroom was full of life and noise and kids just really enjoying what they were doing. And she really had a good handle on what the kids were doing and brought out their best.”

(John Workman) “It’s going to be a community loss.”

(McCrea) Down the road in Essex Junction, John Workman is preparing to bury his sister, Alicia. Workman says Alicia probably could have retired years ago from teaching, but chose not to.

(Workman) “She so looked forward to getting ready to start another year. And, you know, second, third grades are such important years! And she was the perfect person to be teaching kids what they needed to know to carry on in the world.”

(McCrea) As a sister, Workman says Alicia was the matriarch of the family. She was in high school when her mother passed away, leaving six siblings, including a one-year-old, for Alicia to help raise.

(Workman) “And she’s been the one we would chat with about issues within the family, as families do. But she was just a wonderful, dedicated, committed mother, wife, sister. And it’s so hard now to make sense of this senseless tragedy.”

(McCrea) But John Workman says it’s important to think beyond the senselessness.

(Workman) “And I know Alicia well enough to know that one of her first thoughts would be: prayers and thoughts for the other family that’s going through a very similar situation here. And it appears to be that the two families might be in separate circles, but we’re all underneath one umbrella of a tremendous loss in each. And I know that our family, and Alicia would want them to know how much we offer our condolences. And our thoughts and prayers are for that family – Linda’s family. And it’s just a tough time. You think we’re insulated here in Vermont, and we just found out we’re not.”

(McCrea) Alicia Shanks will be buried in Essex on Monday, next to the graves of her mother and father.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Lynne McCrea.

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