FORT WORTH -- Students at Manuel Jara Elementary School "are beside themselves" after the loss of their teacher, Matthew Aguirre, Principal Marta Plata said.
Aguirre, 26, died Sunday in a car wreck in Sherman.
A team of crisis response counselors was at the school Monday when the faculty, staff and students were told of Aguirre's death, said Clint Bond, Fort Worth school district spokesman.
Cindy Bethany, the district's critical-incident specialist, said counselors choose their words carefully when talking to the students.
"You tell them gently, but you tell them," Bethany said. "Children differ widely in their reactions to death. We bring the news of death to them in groups no larger than a normal class."
That allows counselors to choose the best words for each child or group, Bethany said.
"We make sure there are several supportive and familiar people around to normalize their reactions," she said. "The telling is the beginning rather than the end of the process."
Plata said Aguirre was "passionate and animated" during the 21/2 years he taught at the school.
"He loved life and his students meant the world to him," she said. "The first response from one of his second-grade students was that 'he was the bestest teacher in whole world.' Some students referred to him as Dr. Seuss because he had a 'special smile and a silly wink.'"
Plata described Aguirre as "a ball of energy with a mischievous sense of humor, always thinking outside the box."
Jetty Aguirre said her younger son "was always in the fast lane. If he had the urge to do something, he wasn't happy until he got it done."
Aguirre made news in 1998 when, at age 13, he became an Eagle Scout and was featured in the Star-Telegram.
Most teens don't achieve that honor until they are 15 to 18.
Aguirre told the Star-Telegram then that he became an Eagle Scout because of his father, Arturo Aguirre Jr., but rushed to it because of his older brother, Anthony Aguirre.
"My brother got his at 14, so I was trying to beat him," Matthew Aguirre said.
"It was a friendly competition between the two of us who was going to get the most merit badges," said his brother, Anthony Aguirre.
Matthew Aguirre also hinted to the Star-Telegram about what he wanted to do in life.
"Steven Spielberg has his Eagle as well," he said.
As an adult, he invested in a professional-quality camera and was uploading videos to YouTube, Jetty Aguirre said.
"He did a tribute to 9-11 that was really beautiful," she said. "He was getting calls from other people to have him go out and video their stuff because of the quality of his work."
Anthony Aguirre said his brother wanted to be a director, "but teaching was his life. He wanted the kids to succeed. That was his other family."
Aguirre combined his professional life with his dream, making videos from every program for all grade levels at the school, Plata said.
This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.
Terry Evans, 817-390-7620