DANVERS — Danvers High sophomore John LeBrun had Colleen Ritzer as his geometry honors math teacher at the start of the school year.
The popular 24-year-old from Andover, who was in her second year at the school, was the kind of teacher who made learning math fun, he said.
“Whenever you walked into the class, you knew it was going to be fun to do,” said LeBrun, who described Ritzer as very kind and funny. “She definitely lit up the mood.”
He had classes all around Ritzer’s classroom, and he would see her and say “hi” or chat, as students do with their teachers, throughout the school day.
“I talked to her that day,” LeBrun said. “At the end of the day, she wasn’t there.”
LeBrun was referring to Oct. 22, 2013. That afternoon, Ritzer was brutally attacked and killed, prosecutors allege, at the hands of freshman student Philip Chism, now 15, of Danvers, in a second-floor bathroom of the school. Her body was later found in woods outside the school.
Ritzer’s death shook the community to its core. (Chism pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, aggravated rape and armed robbery in Salem Superior Court.) Like others who had Ritzer in class, LeBrun had to come to grips with the popular teacher being gone for good. He went to the vigil for her and attended other events in her memory.
“I pretty much went to everything for her,” LeBrun said.
An avid bowler, LeBrun works at Sunnyside Bowladrome a couple of days a week, doing “pretty much anything,” from cleaning lanes to cleaning up. He also bowls in the men’s bowling league.
A couple of months ago, he was at a fundraiser for the Colleen E. Ritzer Memorial Scholarship Fund at the Woburn Bowladrome. It was one of many events held in recent months to raise money for the scholarship, set up by the Essex County Community Foundation, to benefit students in Andover and Danvers.