Colleen Ritzer, Andover, was a high school math teacher who taught geometry and algebra at Danvers High School in the Boston suburb of Danvers, Massachusetts. She was the oldest of her parent’s three children. Colleen graduated from Andover High School in 2007. She then graduated magna cum laude from Assumption College in 2011. There, she was a math major, psychology minor with a concentration in secondary education.
Colleen was remembered by her students and family as a devoted teacher who went over and above her duties to make sure that her students understood their work and became as enthusiastic about math as she was. She maintained active social media pages to interact with her students and offer help and guidance on tricky topics.
On October 22, 2013, during Colleen’s last period of the day she noticed one of her students not taking notes or paying attention. Colleen never came home after that. Blood was found in the 2nd floor bathroom and Colleen was found in the woods behind the school early in the morning of October 23, 2013. A candle light vigil was held in her honor.
Here are Colleen’s own words…
Everyone Makes a Difference
“I teach several students that are emotionally unstable and struggling to survive adolescence and middle school. Whether it be their home life or school life, they are miserable. It is heartbreaking to see students come to you in tears, especially those that seem so strong on the outside and then inform you that they dislike being at school because “no one is nice to them”.
Middle school is a common time of bullying and pressure to “fit in”. Unfortunately, these kids are at the age where “fitting in” is all they know. They do not want to be themselves, and only care about what others think. The very select few that are willing to be themselves and not be afraid of the judgment of others are truly role models and an inspiration to others, including adults.
I was fortunate to have a fine middle school experience, but I do know several people who did not, and now I’m seeing it in my students. I hope that one day these kids realize that they are all special in their own way. They all have something unique and different to offer to this world. They all make a difference.
As I watch my students struggle, I am reminded that all of us make a difference. No matter what we do, big or small actions, or how we act, we all possess traits that are unique to only ourselves, and no one else. I hope everyone comes to this realization at some point in their lives, and the sooner the better, because once people realize this, their lives will be forever changed.
To those who struggle in any way, at any age, you make a difference. You have something great to offer to this world, and the world would be a different place without you. Your friends, family, peers, and acquaintances, would all be different people without you. Believe it or not, you have impacted all of them at some time, some point in your life.
Most importantly, you are never alone in your struggles. There are others who struggle with you and you must always remember that. These people have also yet to discover the difference they make in this world, but at some point, each one of you will. And then, everything else will fall into place.”
– Colleen Ritzer.