'She loved everybody’: Third-grade teacher dies after recent COVID-19 diagnosis

STANLY COUNTY, N.C. — A third-grade teacher at Norwood Elementary School in Stanly County died Sunday morning after a recent COVID-19 diagnosis, the district confirmed.

Stanly County Schools said that Julie Davis had worked at Norwood Elementary for two years, where she earned a well-deserved reputation.

“She implemented creative ways of teaching and her high standards and expectations motivating others to achieve their best,” according to a release from Stanly County Schools. “Students absolutely loved being taught by Mrs. Davis. Her personality was infectious and she brought joy into the lives of the students, staff, and community.”

The district said Davis did self-quarantine when she started experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.

Stanly County Schools said once she tested positive for the virus, the district contacted anyone who might have been in close contact with her. It also said the health department does not believe she got the virus from the school.

“We are extending our deepest condolences to Mrs. Davis' family. We were truly blessed by her professionalism and caring spirit,” the release said.

A family member told Channel 9 that Davis was one of the hardest workers and that she was compassionate, caring, thoughtful and someone who loved to the depths of her soul.

Eyewitness News reporter Glenn Counts spoke to some of those who knew Davis and had children in her class.

“My daughter was in her class, and I told her. She was kind of shocked. I don’t think she understands,” said Deborah Kirby, who has children who attend Norwood.

Parents said they’re not only saddened by the news but are also frustrated with how everything has been handled.

“They should have contacted us the day of, instead of us having to find out over Facebook," parent Marie Johnson said.

The district said it’s protecting students and staff. Channel 9 learned from district leaders that in the past two weeks, a student and staff member tested positive for COVID-19. After that, some third-grade students and staff were instructed to quarantine.

School leaders said no other students or staff members who were quarantined have tested positive for the virus.

‘She told me ... that she had definitely gotten it from the school’

Julie Davis was 49 years old. She died nearly two months after the school district allowed for some in-person classes to resume.

On Monday, Channel 9 anchor Genevieve Curtis spoke with Davis' family, who have received countless messages of support from the community over the past 24 hours -- a testament to the kind of impact she had on this community, how incredibly infectious her personality was and how deeply she will be missed.

The flag at Norwood Elementary was flying at half-staff on Monday.

“She loved everybody,” said Julie’s daughter, Leanna Richardson. “She cared about everybody. She didn’t know a stranger.”

There are some people who just make the world better. From all accounts, Davis was one of those people.

“You couldn’t be in a room with my mom and not laugh,” Richardson said.

An educator of 18 years, her daughter told Channel 9 that Davis became a teacher after the Columbine tragedy.

“She knew if she could change a child’s life through teaching, maybe that wouldn’t happen again. And years later, she touched, she touched everybody,” Richardson said.

Davis was a passionate teacher and a treasured friend to many. Creative, dependable and selfless, her family said Davis' gifts and talents were endless.

“It just came from her heart,” said Julie’s sister, Laura Britt. “She could reach every child in the classroom. She just loved every child.”

A wife and a mother, loved ones said Davis was proud to be a grandmother to 2-year-old Eli, who affectionately called her “Lolli.”

“She loved us all, but she loved that little boy,” Britt said.

Julie’s family told Channel 9 that she was excited to get back into the classroom to see her kids -- but also nervous. She took care of her 74-year-old mother and her grandson.

“She did everything she could never to endanger them,” said Richardson. “She did Walmart pick up since the beginning of the pandemic until the end of her life. She wore her mask everywhere she went. And it’s not that they (the school district) are necessarily to blame, but they cannot confirm without a doubt that she did not get it from being in the classroom.”

Davis' brother, Stan Andrews, told Channel 9 that he’s upset that the district said his sister did not contract the virus at school.

“She told me when I talked to her that she had definitely gotten it from the school,” he said, adding that once the student became symptomatic, they sent the student home. But the student had siblings at the school and they did not go home.

There was a student who tested positive on Sept. 18. The district said that Davis did not have direct contact with that student though.

The health department told Channel 9 they could not connect Davis' case to any other events at the school. Genevieve asked if they could definitely say Davis did not contract the virus at the school, but she has not gotten a response.

Davis' loved ones tried to video message with her in the final days at the hospital -- a loss made even more painful by being apart.

“I do not want anybody to feel this empty hole that we have,” Richardson said.

Davis' family does not want another family to endure the same heartbreak.

This virus does not care, and we all have to do our part so no one else has to feel this pain," Richardson told Channel 9. “I just want everyone to remember who she was. How hard she worked. How hard she loved.”

Davis' husband and son have both tested negative for the virus. They are in quarantine, which is even harder for the family because they can’t grieve together.