Jacksonville elementary teacher who died ‘brought love, joy and kindness to her students’

Family, friends and former students are mourning the loss of a Duval County teacher who died after contracting COVID-19.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Loved ones, colleagues and students are mourning the loss of a Duval County teacher who died of COVID-19.

On Tuesday, the district confirmed the death of longtime-educator Deborah Menendez-Holloway.

Menendez-Holloway, 51, was a second and third-grade teacher at Arlington Elementary School where she just started teaching English this year. For 17 years, she taught at Love Grove Elementary.

Her daughter, Regina, told News4Jax her mother’s passion was education, even outside school hours.

“I was always in a school with her reading and learning about everything that I possibly could,” Mendez-Holloway’s daughter said. “She just she loved it. She absolutely loved it.”

Samantha Jackson, a former student, wrote:

“I will never ever forget, she believed in me whenever no one else did. I will always remember her as loving, caring, and always so dedicated to what she did. She changed my life.”

Kylie Breedlove, also a former student, wrote:

“I would like to share with you how much Miss. Holloway truly changed my life. In elementary I always struggle with many different things and Miss. Holloway was there for me through everything.”

The messages -- bringing comfort to the family.

“I’ve seen so much love and support go out for my mom. I always knew that she was a very sociable person, a very kind person, she always lent a hand to anybody that needed it. But I never, I guess, fully realized the scope of the lives of everyone she touched until I see all of the messages pouring in,” Regina Holloway said.

The district issued a statement saying Menendez-Holloway “brought love, joy, and kindness to her students and classrooms, and she will be deeply missed by her school community.”

A district spokesman said the district’s crisis response team has a presence at both Arlington and Love Grove to provide grief counseling to any students or staff that need it.

“She was always dedicated to her students and to her fellow faculty members,” said Terrie Brady, head of the Duval teachers union. This virus is dangerous. Our education family are helping to make the schools work. They are the unsung heroes during this pandemic. All educators are frontline workers. Deborah will be missed.”

Last month, two beloved teachers at Jacksonville’s Trinity Christian Academy, a mother and daughter, died from complications due to COVID-19.

Here are some other colleagues and students who shared their thoughts:

Meridyth Rush, colleague/friend - “Her motto was simple for all who knew her “She is only a phone call away for anything anyone ever needed.”

Dawn Marie Madalone, cousin - “She always brought laughter, happiness, comfort and spiritual guidance to me. The past 3 years she has truly been my angel…”

Kristen Montalto, friend - “She would drop everything to help other people whenever they needed it. That’s just the kind of person she was. She was literally the life of the party in every room she walked into.”

Regan Foley, colleague - “Holloway was a beacon of light every single time she entered the room. She was no nonsense, yet still one of the most entertaining personalities I have ever encountered!”

Caroline Glover, colleague - “She was fun and full of life. Always willing to do anything for anyone. Not only was she a friend she was family.”

Carolyn Lynn, Literacy Director for the Communities In Schools AmeriCorps Duval Reads Program - “Mrs. Holloway was a warm, smart and kind teacher! There was nothing she wouldn’t do to make sure students had the resources to learn all that they could!”

About the Author:

McLean is a reporter with WJXT, covering education and breaking news. He is a frequent contributor to the News4Jax I-team and Trust Index coverage.