The sudden death of a "bubbly" Westbrook School teacher who "touched the lives of so many kids" has shocked the school and wider community.
Year 3 teacher Natasha Dickson died at home unexpectedly yesterday morning.
The school community was notified through an email to families and the wider community was notified through the school's Facebook page.
Principal Colin Watkins told the Rotorua Daily Post that while Dickson had only been at the school for a short time, she had made a huge impact.
"She was well on her way to becoming a serious influence on the Westbrook School community," he said.
"My nephew was in her class so I can tell you firsthand she was doing a fantastic job and was a really good teacher. But teaching is only part of the deal.
"You have to have a high degree of emotional intelligence and a heart as big as a truck to work with us and she fit in beautifully. She met all that criteria for staff at this school.
"She was the bubbliest, most positive person I've met. Not only as a teacher but as a mother."
Dickson leaves behind two young sons, and Watkins said the school was focused on supporting them first and foremost.
"We have a plan in place for next week to manage the emotions of our kids and staff. The most important thing is we really feel for the family.
"We know we have to deal with this as a school but we're talking about two young boys who lost their mother. Our aroha, thoughts and best wishes and anything we can do to support them is our priority."
Dickson was in her mid 40s and was the Year 3 team leader at the school. Watkins said she had been "over the moon" to be back teaching at the school she attended as a child. She had been at the school nine months.
Yesterday the school asked parents to keep their children home for the day. It also offered counselling to anyone who needed it.
"As always at Westbrook, we are banding together and supporting each other through this tragedy," the school said in a statement yesterday.
Dickson had taught at Blockhouse Bay Primary School in Auckland for 14 years before moving back to Rotorua in August last year.
Blockhouse Bay Primary School principal Neil Robinson said staff and students alike would be "absolutely devastated" by the news.
"She was just an outstanding, bubbly, enthusiastic teacher. Nothing was ever too much trouble for her. She loved her kids and when she decided to relocate we were disappointed but excited for her new chapter in life," he said.
"She touched the lives of so many kids."
Robinson said Dickson was an excellent teacher and "all round lovely human".
Since the news was announced there has been an outpouring of support on the school's Facebook page.
"An amazing teacher with an amazing heart, will be sadly missed from the school. All the love sent to you all at this sad time," one commenter said.
"So sad to hear such tragic news. Thinking of the family and also the Westbrook family in this hard time," another said.
Ministry of Education deputy secretary of sector enablement and support Katrina Casey said the ministry had offered the support of its traumatic incident team.
"Our thoughts are with the family and Westbrook School staff and students, following the unexpected death of a highly regarded member of the school and wider community."
The tragedy is the second to strike the school this year.
In March, teacher Louise Jones died suddenly after teaching at the school for more than 20 years.
Jones, in her 40s, was actively involved in kapa haka and netball at the school and played netball herself on weekends.