The body of adored Rotorua primary school teacher Louise Jones will be taken to her ancestral marae this afternoon.
Westbrook Primary School is reeling after the sudden loss of treasured and long-serving teacher Louise Jones.
Miss Jones had taught at the school for more than 20 years. She died suddenly on Monday morning, after calling in sick for work.
Her body is being taken to Tunohopu Marae at 5pm today and her funeral will be on Thursday.
School principal Colin Watkins said staff and students were grieving.
"It's got us reeling to be honest. We have got hundreds of people here today who are devastated," Watkins said yesterday.
"There's a genuine outpouring of grief and we're allowing that to happen. Where appropriate parents have uplifted their kids. The children are articulating their grief -talking, drawing pictures, whatever it is they believe is going to help them. It's the same for staff."
Watkins said Miss Jones, in her 40s, was actively involved in kapa haka and netball at the school and played netball herself on weekends.
"Louise was a long-standing member of our staff, in excess of 20 years. In that time she's coached netball and kapa haka for every one of those years," Watkins said.
"In her time she would have coached and worked with thousands of our students.
"We are all absolutely devastated by her loss."
Watkins had nothing but praise for the teacher who was the leader of the Year 3 team.
He notified the school community of the loss today and said staff and students were in compete shock.
"She always looked after herself, she ate well and was fit and had worked hard to have balance. She put her family first and she always had a strong work ethic.
"Nobody saw this coming."
Watkins admired the way Miss Jones taught kapa haka and said she taught it in an old-fashioned way.
"She taught them Ngati Whakaue waiata and was an absolute bastion of everything that's important about being Maori," he said. "She was this humble and beautiful human being."
On the netball court, Miss Jones taught not only skills, but how to be a humble winner, he said.
"She was a woman with absolute mana in every sense of the word, and her loss is going to have a huge impact on us as a school but also on Rotorua."
Both the Ministry of Education and the New Zealand Education Institute have offered grief counselling for staff and students who needed it. Watkins said the school had yet to take that up, as the loss of Miss Jones was still new and raw.
"Louise touched so many hearts and taught so many people. She is undoubtedly one of the most loved people who set foot in this school."
Her body will be taken to her ancestral meeting house of Tunohopu, Ohinemutu, today at 5pm.
Her funeral service will be Thursday at 11am at St Faiths Church.
Westbrook School is to close on Thursday to allow students and staff to attend the funeral.