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Beloved teacher remembered after triple fatal crash in Jerusalem Township

Whitney Meinke's school photo. (Courtesy: Benton-Carroll-Salem Local School District).

A popular teacher at an Oak Harbor elementary school is being remembered for her ability to connect with students and families just days after she and her parents were killed by an apparent drunk driver in Jerusalem Township.

Those who knew her say Whitney Meinke's classroom at RC Waters was filled with laughter and happiness.

"She added fun and humor to her classroom on a daily basis," said Mrs. Dawn Bryant, the school's principal. "She was dearly loved by her students and colleagues."

After learning of Meinke's death over the weekend, district officials, while battling their own emotions, worked to set up counseling for students and staff. On Monday, in an otherwise empty school due to Spring Break, about a dozen co-workers gathered to share memories and simply be together.

"It was tough and it will be tough for a while," said Bryant.

Comprehending the details of the crash has proven to be painful for Bryant and others.

Meinke was riding with her parents Robin and Barbara Shellhammer of Oregon early Saturday morning when they were struck by another vehicle near the intersection of Seaman and Cousino Roads.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol says Alejandro Ramirez-Jaramillo, 26, of Asheboro, NC, failed to stop at a stop sign -- striking the vehicle operated by Mr. Shellhamer.

Troopers immediately suspected alcohol was a factor in the crash and on Monday, Ramirez-Jaramillo was charged with three counts of vehicular homicide.

"This is absolutely one of the most difficult things to ever have to deal with," Bryant said.

She says Meinke had a way of connecting with her students and their families.

"Whitney was an amazing person. She had a fun, positive, outgoing personality."

Mrs. Meinke's empty classroom will soon be filled the students who so preciously adored their teacher. And it will not be void of memories, for there are reminders of Mrs. Meinke in every corner of the room, notably her personal messages of encouragement.

Messages that now seem so tragically relevant.

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