Teacher dies after collapse in class

A crisis response team, grief counselors and local clergy were on hand at Osbourn High School Tuesday to help students and teachers deal with the loss of a much adored teacher who collapsed and died Monday while teaching a class.

Biology teacher Karl Walsh was rushed to Prince William Hospital Monday afternoon where he was pronounced dead shortly after he collapsed, said Almeta Radford, Manassas school division’s spokeswoman.

Walsh died of heart failure, according to records at the Office of Chief Medical Examiner in Fairfax.

“There were about 20 students in the class,” when Walsh collapsed, Radford said.

Walsh, a native of Canada, came to teach at Osbourn in fall 2002. He came to Manassas under the school division’s Visiting International Faculty program.

Virginia Department of Health officials arrived to the school shortly after his collapse to “make sure there was no infectious disease — and there wasn’t,” said Lucy Caldwell, Virginia Department of Health regional spokeswoman.

The concern comes in the wake of the recent Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome outbreak in North America, Europe and Asia. Walsh’s homeland, Canada, has reported 143 cases of SARS as of Monday. Of those reported, 22 people have died, according a report by the World Health Organization.

“Although he was from Canada he had no symptoms of any infectious disease, including SARS,” Caldwell said.

Glen Strickland teaches government across the hall from Walsh’s classroom. After Walsh collapsed, students from his class came into Strickland’s classroom and said their teacher needed help. “It was rough on a lot of people ? students and faculty alike,” Strickland said.

“His students just thought the world of him. That was really hard seeing the kids so stressed.”

Strickland spoke fondly of Walsh as a teacher, fellow employee and father. Walsh’s daughter, 17-month-old Nicole, was his pride and joy, according to teachers and friends.

Strickland recalled the first conversation he had with Walsh. Walsh had bumped into him in the hallway and then apologetically said he had not gotten much sleep the night before. The lack of sleep was because he stayed up all night with his daughter who was teething, Walsh had told Strickland.

From then on, Strickland, who has three children, and Walsh would talk on a number of occasions about Walsh’s daughter.

“I didn’t really get to know him until he accidentally bumped into me that day,” Strickland said, noting Walsh was a “heck of a nice guy” and “really good person.”

“He wanted them to know that he knew them as an individual,” Strickland said of Walsh teaching students.

Walsh was the chairperson of the faculty social committee and organized faculty get-togethers, Strickland said.

On Tuesday, the mood at Osbourn was somber, according to one teacher comforting the family at the Walsh home in Manassas.

“He was the most wonderful person I ever met,” Walsh’s wife, Aysol said. “He will be with us all the time,” said his wife, a native from Turkey.

“I had been very blessed to have him as a friend and colleague,” Osbourn art teacher Nancy McCaleb said.

The funeral will be Saturday in Peterborough, Canada, Aysol Walsh said.

Teachers, students and parents are planning a school memorial service for Walsh, according to McCaleb.

Staff writer Jennifer Brennan can be reached at (703) 368-3101, Ext. 123.