Christina Whelan

    - A Friend
  • "You are missed very much old friend."
  • "Christina, I am also from PA and live in NC. You passed..."
    - Tim Farina
  • "To Family, God see your tears and pain of heart may He..."
    - A Mom
  • "use to live in gastonia. in merced, ca. now so very sorry...."
    - aaron sexton

A student in Christina Whelan's second-grade class lost two teeth last week, on the night before school started for the year.

Last Thursday, Whelan took a photo of the boy in her classroom and broke out laughing at the child's semi-toothless grin.

Parents, students and friends say they'll remember that sense of humor, warmth and professionalism as they grieve the death of Whelan, 27, a Charlotte woman who was killed Tuesday morning in a car crash on Interstate 85 in Gaston County.

Whelan was in her first year of teaching at Carr Elementary School in Dallas, after five years at Brookside Elementary in Gaston County.

Gaston County Schools officials have counselors at the schools today, helping students and staff deal with the death.

"A gentle spirit, dedicated professional, and she did a wonderful job," Ree Threlkeld of Gastonia wrote in an online tribute to Whelan.

It is the second time in a little more than a year that the Carr Elementary community has dealt with death. In July 2010, a student at the school, Austen Minter II, 6, was shot to death by his father, Austen Minter, who also killed the youth's mother and a sister. Minter then turned the gun on himself. Another daughter, 7-year-old Destiny, also a Carr student, survived.

The N.C. Highway Patrol says Whelan was southbound on I-85, headed to work Tuesday, when she lost control of her car. It slammed into the cement median, then went off the right side of the road and crashed into a grove of trees. Whelan was airlifted to Carolinas Medical Center but died a short time later.

Troopers say it is possible something went wrong mechanically with Whelan's car, a Toyota Scion.

Whelan, who was two days short of her 28th birthday, was engaged. She grew up in Ellwood City, Pa., in the western part of the state, where many of her family members live. She graduated in 2006 from Slippery Rock (Pa.) University and moved to North Carolina to pursue a teaching career.

In the online tributes, one woman from Seattle wrote, "You had an impact on my daughter's life several years ago. We still have fond memories of our school years in Gastonia."

And this, from a girl named Brynna in Gastonia, "You are my favorite teacher. You forever will be."

- Steve Lyttle, The Charlotte Observer
Published in Charlotte Observer on Aug. 31, 2011
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