DANVERS, Mass. (MyFoxBoston.com) – Colleen Ritzer smiled because she loved to teach and because she loved life. Unfortunately, her life ended in a place the Danvers High School math teacher considered home.
Students from Danvers High School have been using the hashtag "DanversStrong" when tweeting about Ritzer's murder which occurred inside the high school on Tuesday.
News of Ritzer's death shocked students and staff alike, but most of all, it shocked her family. Despite the news, those who knew Ritzer are rallying around her memory.
FOX 25's Crystal Haynes spoke with several different people in the Danvers community who said Ritzer loved teaching and that it really showed in her work and the way she interacted with her students.
"Whenever I saw her, she was always smiling," Nicole Belanger, a student at Danvers High School, said
According to a family friend, teaching was always Ritzer's dream
"I would say, ‘What are you gonna' do?' She'd say, ‘I'm going to be a math teacher,'" she said.
Fourteen-year-old Philip Chism, one of Ritzer's freshmen students, is accused attacking and killing Ritzer in the school's bathroom and then dumping her body nearby.
"He didn't seem like the type of kid that would do that, I mean, after just moving here," Destiny Beeson, a student at the high school, said of Chism.
Beeson said she was in Ritzer's math class last year and sat next to Chism in Spanish class. She said Chism had just moved from Tennessee.
"She was a sweetheart. Very uplifting. I would go to her for advice about anything I needed help with. I would ask her questions during class if I needed any help. She was just overall a very uplifting spirit," Beeson said.
Ritzer graduated from Assumption College in 2011 and was a standout student at Andover High School, graduating in 2007. She leaves behind her parents and a brother and sister.
In a statement, the Ritzer family said, "At this time, we are mourning the tragic death of our amazing, beautiful daughter and sister. Everyone that knew and loved Colleen knew of her passion for teaching and how she mentored each and every one of her students."
Neighbor Mary Duffy lived next door to the Ritzers all her life and watched her grow up.
"If everybody's family was like the Ritzer family, America wouldn't have this problem at all," Duffy said.
Hundreds turned out for a candlelight vigil on the parking lot of the high school Wednesday night, not far from where Ritzer's body was found.
Many wore pink, Ritzer's favorite color. They prayed and sang and, at the end of the vigil, placed their candles along with some stuffed animals in the middle of a ring they formed for the gathering.
According to officials within the Danvers school system, students in kindergarten through eighth grade will be back at school Thursday. Danvers High School students will be back to school Friday with grief counselors on hand.