Kelly Peterson, 41, was a teacher at Lake Shipp Elementary School.
“Her smile... you could be having the worst day possible, and she would just smile and be goofy, and make you feel like everything was going to be OK,” said Christin Peterson.
Christin said her sister Kelly Peterson had a contagious smile. She said Kelly was made to teach. She was named Teacher of the Year, twice, and received numerous awards.
As a teacher for two decades, Peterson touched hundreds of student's lives.
“If there were problem children, typically they’d end up in her classroom because she was the one who was able to break through and get through to them in a way the kids would trust her,” Christin said.
Peterson passed away Monday, due to complications from COVID-19.
She had leukemia which prevented her from getting the vaccine. Her sister said Peterson feared going back to the classroom, knowing masks are not required.
“She was absolutely terrified, and she knew if she got sick from COVID that her chances of survival weren’t going to be good. So, she did everything she did to protect herself, but it wasn’t enough,” she explained.
Though there’s no way to confirm where she contracted COVID-19, her sister said she died doing what she loved.
“If she were to be given a choice all over again, knowing what the outcome would be, I think she would do it. I think her dedication to the school, to the kids, to her profession, I think she would,” said Christin.
Her family said on Facebook.
The school also posted in remembrance of her.
A Polk County Public Schools spokesman said that counselors are available at Lake Shipp Elementary to assist students and staff, for as long as they are needed.