Retired Molalla teacher, coach loses COVID battle
The excitement of a new school year was mixed with sadness in Molalla on Tuesday, Sept. 8, when news came that beloved former Molalla River Middle School teacher and coach, Dan Leighton, had died.
"It is with a heavy heart I share with you that Dan Leighton, longtime MRSD teacher and coach, passed away this morning," Superintendent Tony Mann said in a letter to staff. "Dan retired from the district in 2018, and many students and staff were influenced by his life as an educator. … Our thoughts and prayers are with Dan's friends and family."
Leighton died after a battle with COVID-19, according to former school board member Jennifer Satter in a post on her public Facebook page. It's unclear whether Leighton had been vaccinated.
"Mr. Leighton had a huge impact on the kids in our district and was very respected and adored by the kids for all he had done for them," Satter said. "It's pretty devastating news."
Many others took to social media to mourn as well.
"Dan Leighton, I will forever cherish the fact that the very last thing you said to me was 'I'm proud of you,'" Eli Howard said in a post on Facebook. "In all my time going to school, you were the only teacher to ever tell my mother I was a good student. You always spoke to me and treated me like I was an adult. You made it clear you didn't want to just prepare me for school, you wanted to prepare me for life, and I'll never forget what you taught to me, and hundreds if not thousands of others. Your passion for your job went so far beyond the walls of the Molalla schools. Thank you for being a mentor that I will never forget."
Howard was more than willing to make his statement public, noting, "This community deserves to know how important he was."
Mann said the school district put a flight team in place — a group of counselors and others prepared to provide support to students and staff in situations like this.
"Dan Leighton was known and loved by many," Mann said, "and we always want to make sure students and staff have support as needed after hearing such news."
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