Panther Valley mourns HS math teacher
Panther Valley School District is mourning the death of a teacher who died unexpectedly over the holiday break.
School staff and students learned Tuesday morning of the death of Ardan O’Brien, who taught math in the district for the last six years. Parents of high school students were notified by the district, and additional counselors were on hand Tuesday to assist students.
Superintendent David McAndrew Jr. said that O’Brien’s death is a very tough loss for the school community.
“He built a lot of meaningful relationships with the students,” McAndrew said. “The students took it really hard because he meant so much to them.”
O’Brien’s subject area was math, but his impact went beyond those lessons. He had a special ability to connect with his students, and was always willing to give his time to help students who needed extra help.
“He took the time to know the students. Those relationships helped him become a better teacher,” he said.
Students and alumni posted tributes to their teacher online.
Alanna Bednar, a current senior at Panther Valley, said that while she never took one of his classes, she will miss seeing O’Brien in the halls. She said his positive mood and jokes brought joy to students and staff alike.
“It won’t be the same without having his bright smile and laugh heard or shown throughout the halls,” she said.
He also dedicated numerous hours to helping with the school’s drama and music programs. He led the drama club, and from the background contributed to many other programs at the school.
“He was always willing to lend a hand when needed,” McAndrew said.
O’Brien is tragically the third Panther Valley teacher to die this school year. Joseph Sweeney and Bob Krzywicki, two longtime teachers at Panther Valley, both died in October.
McAndrew said that each instance has been heartbreaking, because they truly feel like members of a family. But he credited the close-knit faculty and staff for being there for their students and each other.
“It constantly resonates that our staff is like a family, and we’ll get through this together,” he said.
The district plans to have extra counselors on hand on Wednesday as well.