AUSTIN, Texas — Current and former students in the Akins Early College High School community are remembering a teacher who touched their minds and hearts.
"It really just was crushing to hear what happened to her, let alone know that she's no longer here," said Caitlin Mullen-Jester, a former Akins High School student. "I think the world was a better place with her in it."
"You know, it's always the good people that have to go so soon,” said Mark Vallejo, a former Akins High School student.
Vallejo and Mullen-Jester are just two of the former students mourning the loss of Garcia-Mata. She was known as the teacher who was there for you, the one who cheered you on.
"She wanted to see everyone do their best and accomplish their goals," explained Vallejo, "and just thrive in life."
The 39-year-old was hiking in the Franklin Mountains in El Paso on Monday when storms came through. The El Paso Fire Department said she was swept away by water and fell down the mountain. Rescuers found her body about two hours later.
Garcia-Mata was hiking with her husband, Gabriel. They were both teachers, and at one point, even had classrooms right across the hall.
"Just how much they loved each other, you could see that in high school. That's what made a lot of us believe in soulmates," said Mullen-Jester.
Garcia-Mata taught for 15 years and always made kids feel welcomed and cared for. She had one quality that everyone remembers.
"It's just that smile," said Vallejo. "Like I said, I know I keep bringing up her smile, but it's just, it was just so, so positive."
Her students hope to carry on her kindness and impact people the way she impacted them. Garcia-Mata was a person students will never forget, a soul they say was one-of-a-kind.
“She was someone you wanted to be around; she was someone you wanted to be like,” said Mullen-Jester. “You want to emulate the kindness that she spread to everyone.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help Garcia-Mata's family.
AISD Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde released the following statement on Tuesday:
"We are shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of a member of our Austin ISD family. Christina Garcia-Mata was a dedicated and passionate educator who worked endlessly for her students for 15 years. Her colleagues knew her as a bright, warm presence who could lift their spirits with a smile and a story. We send our heartfelt condolences to her family and every life that she touched. Austin ISD is making guidance counselors available to students or staff who may need help processing this loss. To speak to a counselor, please contact the Akins ECHS campus at 512-841-9901."
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