Published June 6, 2013
Wyandot grieves death of popular seventh-grade teacher
By Jeremy Selweski jSelweski@candgnews.com
CLINTON TOWNSHIP — The Wyandot Middle School community is mourning the loss of one of its most beloved teachers, whose unexpected death shocked all those who knew him.
Andrew Wesley, a seventh-grade teacher at the school, died suddenly on the evening of June 2 after collapsing in front of his home in Richmond. He was just 40 years old and had no known health issues.
A few days after his death, Wendy Titran, a fellow seventh-grade teacher at Wyandot and a personal friend of Wesley’s, was still in disbelief about the tragic loss.
“It’s very shocking because Andy was so young and healthy,” she said. “He exercised a lot and really watched what he ate. Andy was one of the healthiest people I know.”
According to a representative from the Macomb County Medical Examiner’s Office, Wesley’s cause of death has not yet been determined, as his case is still pending. It is expected to take six to eight weeks to get the laboratory results back for his tissue and toxicology tests.
Wyandot principal Darleen Sims said that the news of Wesley’s death hit everyone at her school extremely hard. “Mr. Wesley was an outstanding and dedicated teacher who was very well liked by students, parents and other staff members,” she stated. “He will be greatly missed. This was a very tough loss for our entire school community.”
As assistant principal Frank Bellomo pointed out, “(Wesley) was one of the most popular teachers at our school, and he impacted a lot of kids in a positive way. I would say that he’s irreplaceable. A lot of our students were very upset, very emotional when they found out what happened.”
According to Bellomo, on June 2, Wesley went out for a bike ride and then came home to make dinner for his wife, Kristen, and their two children, ages 6 and 3. After dinner, Wesley went outside to chat with one of his neighbors while his kids played in the front yard. A short time later, he collapsed while standing in his driveway.
Over the next few days, Wyandot called in its building crisis team, along with members of Chippewa Valley Schools’ crisis team, to provide support and grief counseling for students. Bellomo noted that throughout the day on June 3, many students went to the school media center where they wrote letters, poems and cards, as well as drew pictures and created other artwork in Wesley’s honor.
“They really needed an outlet to express what they were feeling, so we encouraged them to share some of their favorite memories of (Wesley),” he explained. “The things they made were all about how much he taught them, how much he inspired them, how much he made them laugh, how much they cared about him and what a good person he was.”
According to Titran, a group of Wyandot students and teachers also created nearly 800 T-shirts bearing one of Wesley’s signature quotes: “You are stronger than you think you are.” Once the shirts are ready, the school will coordinate a day for everyone to wear them in tribute to Wesley.
The commemorative gestures also extended outside of Wyandot’s walls. On June 3, the Chippewa Valley Board of Education held a moment of silence at the start of its meeting in Wesley’s honor. Superintendent Ron Roberts stated that he had visited Wyandot earlier that day to help students and staff through this difficult time.
“(Wesley) was really well loved by his students,” Roberts said. “A lot of the kids had a very strong emotional reaction to his passing, and most of what they said and wrote about him was about his very caring personal relationship with them. That school has such a great culture, and he was certainly a big part of that.”
Wesley was hired by Wyandot in August 2009 and taught math and social studies to seventh-graders during the current school year. In his four years at the school, he received two grant awards from the Chippewa Valley Educational Foundation for innovative lesson ideas like using iPods for scavenger hunts and using pedometers for improved fitness. Before coming to Wyandot, he worked as a teacher at schools in Highland Park and Warren.
Titran believes that Wesley had a knack for reaching students on a deeper level. “Andy was so talented and innovative, and he had the ability to motivate those kids to get the very best out of them,” she said. “He had such a kind, warm sense of humor that they really related to; he knew how to relate his lessons to his students’ lives in a humorous way. Andy could always find a way to connect with kids who couldn’t connect with anyone else.”
But as great of a teacher as Wesley was, Titran feels that he was an even better person. She noted that her family and his were very close and would often take vacations together, and that Wesley was “like a second dad” to her children.
“Andy was so friendly and outgoing, but yet really quiet and thoughtful at the same time,” Titran said. “He was just so real and so humble, which was one of the best things about him. He had no idea how amazing he was.”
Andrew Wesley’s visitation will be held June 7 from 2-8 p.m. and June 8 from 10-11 a.m. at Kaatz Funeral Directors, 71235 Memphis Ridge Road, in Richmond. His funeral service will take place June 8 at 11 a.m. Anyone looking to assist his family can make a donation to Kristen A. Wesley at any Michigan Schools & Government Credit Union location.