The connection between a great teacher and students who want to learn can be a beautiful thing -- and a tragic one when the connection between them is unexpectedly shattered. That's what happened with the accidental death of 28-year-old Mitch Hanson, a teacher at Smoky Hills High School, from what his mother has reportedly described as "complications from depression and substance use disorder." Photos, video and details below.
See also: Jake Adam York, Colorado Poet and Teacher, Dead at Forty, published December 2012
Hanson's Facebook page features plenty of images in which he's engaged in physical activity, including multiple shots from this past year's Ride the Rockies cycling event. Here's one example....
His most recent Facebook post, shared January 9, reads: "Hey everybody! On February 1st, 2015, I am going to silence my Facebook account and leave it for at least a year. If you want to get in touch with me, please send me a message or ask someone for my info. Otherwise, I hope you have a wonderful life and have a fun time on the social networks."
No one expected anything bad to happen to someone so young and active. But then, on Friday, word began circulating among the students and staff at Smoky Hills that Hanson had died. The school's newspaper, Smoky Now, notes that "according to a Facebook post by Hanson's mom, Penny Hanson, Hanson died as a result of 'complications from depression and substance use disorder.' She also wrote that the death of the 28-year-old was sudden and accidental."
A social studies and AVID teacher, drum-line coach and mock-trial director, Hanson had taken a leave from Smoky Hill in November, Smoky Now reports. But students continued to hold him close to their hearts, as indicated by these items left on the article about his death:
I have many good memories of Mr. Hanson. He was the drum lines instructor an amazing teacher and a great friend. Thou I knew him for only two years I feel like I have known him longer and miss him greatly. Our group chat has not stopped talking about him or about how we can't believe he is really gone.
Mr. Hanson was the best teacher I could have he really taught me a lot. But when I was in his class it wasn't all about doing work and learning but we had more laughs in one that I didn't think I could laugh anymore. He definitely knew how to make anyone smile, he was the best teacher I've ever had in my life and will always be my favorite teacher. Mr. Hanson will be very missed and loved but definitely could never be forgotten. Rest in paradise.
More reaction appeared on social media, including tweeted messages like this one....
It's sad to hear about the loss of a teacher in our community praying for the students of Smoky Hill and family of Mr. Hanson
— Jade Ramsey (@Mz_Ramzey) January 20, 2015
...and this one....
RIP Mr.Hanson, your legacy will be left at Smoky.
— Derma (@ddesmaa) January 20, 2015
...and even a photo:
Smoky Hill lost an amazing teacher and person in general. You will be greatly missed. RIP Hansonpic.twitter.com/I6WBLqkO5W
— ¢ιєяα (@Munnzy11) January 19, 2015
In addition, students talked about their memories with Fox31,which reveals that Smoky Hill enrollees will be wearing orange today in Hanson's memory.
Another message announces a memorial moment for later in the week:
Candlelight vigil for Hanson on Thursday , January 22, at 6:30pm. At Smoky Hill HS, by the buffalo. Please retweet
— keisha (@klopes__) January 20, 2015
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Our condolences to Hanson's friends, family, students and loved ones. Here's the aforementioned Fox31 piece.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.