MULBERRY — In the back seat of James W. Pope's wrecked car were two car seats, one for his 3-year-old and one for his 1-year-old.
His two sons will grow up without a father. Mr. Pope, whom almost everybody called "JW," was killed on his way to work Monday, when another driver ran a stop sign. He was 33.
"He loved his kids, and he loved his wife," said his friend Candace Oschmann. "He just adored them. He talked about them all the time."
Mr. Pope was on his way to a job he loved, a job he had just started in late August, teaching history at Greco Middle School in Temple Terrace.
For six years before that, he had taught eighth-graders history and social studies at Mulrennan Middle School in Seffner.
"He had an absolute passion for his job," Mulrennan principal Tim Ducker said. "He ate, breathed and slept civics, history, politics and current events. He would light up and get excited any time he talked about that kind of thing."
He loved teaching, too, Ducker said.
"He was always meticulously prepared," Ducker said. "He'd come in during the summer, and he'd tell me he had his lessons planned for the whole year."
On Monday morning, Ducker was one of the first of Mr. Pope's friends to suspect that something might be seriously wrong.
"I got a call from Greco asking if I had any other contact numbers for him," Ducker said. "He hadn't shown up for work. I knew that wasn't like him at all, to just not show up."
Ducker asked the deputy who works at Mulrennan to see what he could find out. The deputy learned of the accident and informed Ducker, who called officials at Greco.
Mr. Pope had left Mulrennan at the end of last academic year because he was offered a promotion. At Greco, he was a subject area leader, essentially the head of the social studies program.
Even though he had worked at Greco less than two months, his colleagues were stunned and saddened to the point of tears at his loss.
"In just the short time he was here, he climbed higher than the previous employee, and that's something none of us thought was even remotely possible," Greco science teacher Vicki Cope said.
Students thought just as highly of Mr. Pope as his co-workers did, she said.
"The kids didn't think of him as a friend,'' Cope said. "They knew he was a force to be reckoned with. But they knew he was fair."
At both schools, Mr. Pope was known for his use of technology. He'd set up links so students in other schools could join in discussions with his class, or so parents could occasionally watch what went on. The innovative teaching techniques made students enjoy his classes, his colleagues said, and his technical prowess made Mr. Pope seem a little hipper than some other teachers.
"His students are angry," said Oschmann, who teaches science at Greco. "They're angry because they know that someone ran a stop sign and that's why he's not here anymore."
Mr. Pope is survived by his wife, Jaquette, and sons Jayden and Jackson.
Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Marty Clear writes life stories about area residents who have recently passed away. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.