Volunteer Theodora Anderson had already "made her presence felt" - just two months into a year-long stint at Hohepa school.
The 24-year-old died on Tuesday night, after being critically injured in a crash that morning. She was on her way to work when a car clipped a barrier on Prebensen Drive and crossed into the path of a car carrying Ms Anderson and another Hohepa volunteer.
She was originally from San Francisco and was in New Zealand working at the school as a teacher's aide.
Hohepa Hawke's Bay general manager Andy White said Ms Anderson came to the school because the creative environment and involvement with children had captured her interest and attention.
"She was absolutely wonderful, working with children and staff, we saw that gift she had," he said.
Mr White said she was bright and inspiring. The grief now felt by the Hohepa community showed "how greatly she had made her presence felt".
Yesterday, staff and children at Hohepa came together to acknowledge what had happened, and recognise the impact Ms Anderson had made in such a short time.
The passenger of her car involved in the crash, a man in his early 20s who also worked at Hohepa, suffered minor injuries and was released from hospital yesterday.
"He was with our Hohepa community [yesterday] which was a big thing for him, he needed to be there," Mr White said.
"Hohepa is his support, we are supporting him too."
Ms Anderson's family would be flying into Napier soon. Mr White did not know if there would be a memorial held for Ms Anderson, but the community would go through a grieving process with the family.
"Students will want to recognise that Thea was that person in amongst them and that she is now gone, but respect needs to fit with the family," he said.
He said they would work through the grieving, but "embrace the memories of Thea as well."
Police said they would like to thank the members of the public who stopped and assisted the people involved in the crash, particularly those members of the public who recognised the seriousness of the incident and closed the road to traffic to help keep those assisting at the scene safe.
Police would like to speak to witnesses to the crash or those who were first on the scene.
- If you have any information, please phone Sergeant Craig Ellison at the Napier Police on 06 211 3951.
For more articles from this region, go to Hawkes Bay Today