Stacey York, a Spring Valley woman who died Tuesday in a two-vehicle collision in southwest Rochester, was a 14-year instructor and program leader at Rochester Community and Technical College, and her unexpected death has left many in the RCTC community stricken and grieving.
"It's been a true gut punch for all of us and unexpected, as we're preparing for the fall semester," RCTC President Jeffery Boyd said. "It's been very, very heart-wrenching. When I got the news, I just closed my eyes and said a prayer for her family. "
York was an instructor and program leader for RCTC's Early Childhood Care and Education program, a field which prepares students to work with toddlers and young children in day care and other settings.
"She will truly be missed by many, including the hundreds of students she taught over the years," a post on the RCTC Facebook page said.
It, along with dozens of other posts from teachers, administrators and students, noted that York had taught hundreds of students over the years. Her passion and advocacy for childhood education, her skill as a teacher "who went above and beyond for her students," and her smile were among the dozens of remembrances posted on the page.
"She's just going to be a person who is truly missed, because she projected every image that we hoped RCTC would project," Boyd said.
York, 63, was a passenger in a Subaru Outback driven by her 19-year-old daughter. The vehicle was heading south on Commercial Drive when it was struck by a westbound Mercedes on 48th Street Southwest.
The Subaru spun several feet into a grassy area, and people at the scene performed CPR on York for about 15 minutes.
York's daughter was taken to Mayo Clinic Hospital-Saint Marys Campus. Her condition is unknown. The driver of the Mercedes, a 31-year-old woman, and her two daughters, ages 5 and 10, suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
Krista Jacobson said York was one of her favorite teachers when she was an RCTC student from 2011 to 2012. One memory that stands out for her was York's unique way of defending the dignity and profession of early childhood education.
"She always said, 'It's not babysitting. We don't sit on babies. It's child care. We take care of children," Jacobson said. "That got me roaring."
Jacobson said York was playful, quick-witted, and took the time to get to know her students. She also had a heart for people with physical challenges. Jacobson has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. In class, Jacobson was assisted in class by a person who took notes for her during lectures that she later entered into her computer.
One time, she became aware of some students mocking and making fun of her because of the assistance she received. York said there was no shame in that and told the mockers to lay off.
"She was a teacher who in general had compassion for students, but also for people who might have disabilities," Jacobson said.
Lori Halverson-Wente, an RCTC instructor, was among several to note York's love of teaching.
"We will miss your smile, the joy you showed when collaborating and your true passion to do good with your students," she wrote. "We all knew your vocational calling was an authentic extension of your life. We will miss you!"