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Seneca Falls teacher passes away unexpectedly: District offers support to students, staff

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  • Staff Report 

The Seneca Falls Central School District is mourning the loss of one of its newest teachers, Mary Ouderkirk, who passed away on Friday.

A third-grade elementary school teacher, Ouderkirk was hired by the district in July 2022 and had started working at Elizabeth Cady Stanton Elementary School at the beginning of this school year. Her sudden death sent shockwaves through the school community, prompting the district to take steps to support students and staff.

In a statement released on Monday, Superintendent Dr. Michelle Reed expressed her condolences to Ouderkirk’s family and acknowledged the “tremendous loss” that the school district has suffered. “We extend our heartfelt condolences to the Ouderkirk family and all those who knew Mary,” Reed wrote. “The school district will be providing support to our students and school community today and going forward. Families with questions or concerns should contact their child’s principal directly.”

To provide additional support to the school community, the district has put in place several measures. On Saturday, the Cady Stanton school website added links to resources for caregivers on how to talk to children about death and grieving. On Monday, the district deployed additional counselors, school psychologists, and a therapy dog to the school, and arranged for extra support in the classroom and building. The goal, according to Reed, is to ensure that the children feel safe and supported, and to respect Ouderkirk’s family as they cope with their loss.

Ouderkirk’s family has also announced a celebration of her life and memory, which will be held on Wednesday in Elbridge. In a Facebook post, they described Ouderkirk as a “beloved mom, grandma (Mimi), sister, wife, daughter, teacher, and friend” who brought “so much love and joy to everyone in her life.” The post invited people to join the family at the White Church on East Main Street for an informal gathering from 4 to 6 p.m., followed by a service at 6 p.m. for all to share stories of Ouderkirk. The family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to any local public library in Ouderkirk’s memory.