‘She was a great teacher’: Veteran educator dies unexpectedly in classroom

MORGANTON, N.C. — A community is in shock after a Burke County Public Schools teacher died unexpectedly in her classroom.

Cindy Grindstaff, 50, died Wednesday morning at W.A. Young Elementary. The fifth-grade teacher had been teaching since 2000.

The school district was having a professional development day for its staff, so teachers did not participate in Zoom sessions with students Wednesday. There was no class held Thursday.

Grindstaff’s death was most likely from a medical issue, officials told Channel 9.

Families said the principal contacted the parents of students in her class Wednesday night. Brian Pittman said Grindstaff went out of her way to help his nephew who is a fifth-grader.

“He was very, very, very upset,” Pittman said. “He didn’t know what to say. He really didn’t. He was confused and sat there with a blank look on his face.”

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Thomas Peters’ son is also a fifth-grader at the school.

“She was a great teacher,” Peters said.

His family said the student is heartbroken over the sudden loss of his teacher. Peters said Grindstaff put her students first and she had called him earlier to suggest some ideas on ways to help his son.

“She was just trying to help me give him a pep talk and encouragement of getting it done,” Peters said. “She did really well with the kids, and I hate that this happened to her.”

The Burke County superintendent sent an email to staff members Wednesday:

“It is with a heavy heart that I share with you some sad news,” he said in the email. “This morning at W.A. Young Elementary, Ms. Cindy Grindstaff, 5th-grade teacher, unexpectedly passed away in her classroom. I ask that you keep Cindy’s sister, Tracy Poole, 5th-grade teacher at Hildebran and her family in your prayers. Arrangements will be forthcoming.”