DANVERS — Close to a thousand people gathered last night at an impromptu vigil at Danvers High School to remember math teacher Colleen Ritzer as a buoyant and dedicated young educator.
Students, many of them with tears in their eyes, lit candles and left stuffed animals, flowers and homemade signs for Ritzer at a makeshift memorial on Cabot Road, then gathered in the chilly parking lot adjacent to the tennis courts, on the opposite side of the school from where the teacher’s body was found late Tuesday night.
They were joined by parents, teachers, school administrators and members of the public, as well as crowds of news media gathered on the sidewalk across Cabot Road.
Students said they were confused, saddened and shocked by Ritzer’s murder.
“You wouldn’t think it would happen in like, Danvers,” said Gino Limongiello, 15, a sophomore at the school who spent the day off watching news about the incident and hanging out with his brother Anthony, an 18-year-old senior.
“We just kept talking about how it doesn’t feel real,” Anthony said. “It’s crazy.”
The Limongiello brothers said social media websites like Twitter had erupted with multiple rumors about the murder itself and the suspect behind it, a sentiment frequently expressed by students at the vigil.
Jenna Glazier, a 16-year-old junior and former student of Ritzer, remembered her as a generous, dedicated and helpful teacher who often told students, “Yay proofs!” in reference to a mathematical exercise that some begrudged.
“She was known for her positive energy,” said John Tibbetts, a 16-year-old junior.
“She just always had a huge smile on her face, and she was always willing to help everyone,” said Kelsey Brooks Jr., a 16-year-old junior.
“She loved teaching,” said Kara Behen, a 14-year-old freshman. “She was just ... amazing.”