ANDOVER — The death of 24-year-old Colleen Ritzer was met with shock and sadness across town as residents, many of whom know her family, heard the news.
Ritzer, who lived with her family at 5 Dascomb Road, was killed Tuesday night at Danvers High School, where she had been a teacher for just over a year. A 14-year-old student at the school has been charged with her slaying.
When the chairman of the Andover Board of Selectmen heard the age of the victim, he immediately called his daughter, Christine Vispoli, who is also 24.
“My daughter knew her,” Vispoli said. “My heart bleeds for that family. ... It’s an atrocity. Anytime a young person is taken like this, as a parent, it doesn’t matter what the age, it hits you. It’s a personal thing. It’s horrific.”
Because Ritzer and her family have lived in town for so long, he said, “it affects the whole community. There are no words to describe it.”
Former Selectman Ted Teichert graduated from Andover High in 1979 with Ritzer’s mother, Peggy.
“I didn’t know Colleen, but I have a daughter who is roughly the same age,” he said. “This is gut-wrenching. I can feel for the family.”
At Andover High School, the news of the death of a former student who became a teacher was met with disbelief.
“Today we mourn the tragic loss of Colleen Ritzer, a teacher at Danvers High School and a 2007 graduate of AHS,” said the statement released by Superintendent Marinel McGrath. “Our deepest sympathies go out to the Ritzer family and the Danvers Public School Community at this difficult time.”
Other schools that Ritzer attended issued statements, as well.
Assumption College President Francesco Cesareo said in an email that the Worcester campus was in shock.
“The Assumption College campus community mourns the tragic death of Colleen Elizabeth Ritzer, a 2011 alumna who graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a minor in psychology with a concentration in secondary education,” he said. “Colleen worked as a math teacher at Danvers High School and will be missed by all those who knew her.
“The Assumption community will keep Colleen’s family members in its thoughts and prayers during this time of great sorrow and loss. We pray that God will give them strength and comfort during these difficult days and commend Colleen to God’s loving presence.”
The president of Salem State University also issued a statement, saying that the Ritzer, in the school’s graduate program, was a “bright and vibrant student” who wanted to help children with special needs.
In 2007 when she graduated from Andover High School, Ritzer received a technology award for Excellence in TV production. Joe Spanos, the retired head of the TV production department at the high school, remembered Ritzer well.
“I cried when I heard the sad news this morning,” said Spanos, who still lives in Andover and retired two years ago. “She was a great student. I taught her in my TV production class. She was a teaching assistant.”
He noted, “She always wanted to be a teacher.”
Before working at Danvers, she worked at a middle school in Stow, Mass., also teaching math.