A 39-year-old Austin teacher has died after being swept away by floodwaters while hiking in El Paso, according to emergency officials.
The El Paso Fire Department responded to a report of a missing hiker Monday in the Franklin Mountains, near the Jan Sumrall Memorial Trailhead. On Tuesday afternoon, officials confirmed they found the body of Christina Garcia-Mata.
Garcia-Mata was a teacher at Akins Early College High School, according to the Austin Independent School District.
“We are surprised and saddened to learn of the death of a member of our Austin ISD family,” AISD Superintendent Dr. Stephanie Elizalde stated in a statement, adding that Christina Garcia-Mata “was a committed and enthusiastic educator who spent 15 years working tirelessly for her pupils. Her co-workers remembered her as a cheerful, welcoming presence who could brighten their day with a grin and a story. We extend our sincere condolences to her family and all those whose lives she touched.”
Garcia-Mata was named Teacher of the Year at Akins ECHS in 2017-18, according to a statement on the school’s website. “She was exactly what any teacher should aspire to be,” former student Miguel Garcia Zuniga said.
He was in Garcia-class Mata’s for over three years, but he is currently a student at the University of Massachusetts-Boston. Zuniga gives gratitude to his favorite instructor for guiding him through the process.
According to the website of Akins ECHS, she taught a curriculum called Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID), which focused on preparing students emotionally and socially for college achievement.
Zuniga remembers her greeting him with “Hi, mijo!” whenever he stepped through the door. He mentioned days when the class would circle up and speak about what they were going through and how to deal with it.
“She was a shoulder for all of us to weep on,” he added.
“A significant part of her legacy is that she was such a champion for students’ emotional health and provided them with the skills they needed to maintain their emotional health,” Zuniga said. “She could always relate to kids very frankly and honestly… without getting mixed up about who was the instructor and who was the student.”
Garcia-death Mata’s was deemed accidental, according to El Paso officials.