MELBOURNE, Fla. – Elizabeth Toro, a 52-year-old intensive reading teacher at Lyndon B. Johnson Middle School in Melbourne, died this week after contracting the coronavirus.
Toro, who had been with Brevard Public Schools for five years, is the first known Brevard County teacher to have died as a result of the coronavirus. It was not immediately clear when or how she may have contracted the virus.
The teachers’ union to which Toro belonged released a statement about Toro’s death.
“The Brevard Federation of Teachers is saddened and grieving alongside our teachers at Johnson Middle School over the passing of Ms. Toro,” the statement said. “Ms. Toro, a BFT member, loved her students and put them first. She will be greatly missed. Her passing is a stark reminder that our teachers and staff are heroes during this pandemic who are putting themselves in harm’s way each and every day.”
Vanessa Skipper serves as the Vice President for the Brevard Federation of teachers.
“She was beloved by many,” she said. “She taught intensive reading. A lot of her students came back to see her because she worked so hard with some of our struggling students to feel like they could be successful with reading.”
Skipper told News 6 Toro’s death comes just two days after the death of her mother, who also died due to complications from the coronavirus.
In a statement, district officials said they were “deeply saddened” by the news.
“Ms. Toro was best known for her dedication and immense passion for helping her students succeed,” officials said in the statement. “Grief counselors were on-site at the school (Thursday) and will be available as needed to support students and staff in the coming days.”
At least 15 cases were reported at Johnson Middle School from Sept. 6 and Dec. 5, including five teachers and two staff members, according to the Florida Department of Health.
In total, Brevard Public Schools has reported 924 cases of COVID-19 since school began Aug. 24.
“This was preventable,” Skipper said. “It’s a pandemic we’re all trying to understand but the one thing we do know is masks work. Social distancing works and it only works if we’re all doing it together.”
Eric Rogers of Florida Today contributed to this report.