LARGO — Sixteen year-old LeShawn Smith often worried that his teacher, Sharon Feldhake, stayed too late at school grading papers.
"Miss, you need to have a life," he would tell her.
He played hoops with Largo High schoolmate Robyn Sparrow so she could beef up her game.
And around campus, Smith was known for putting others first.
"He always made sure everyone smiled before he smiled," said longtime buddy Samantha Wood, 18.
Monday, students and teachers at Largo High were trying to cope with the loss of Smith, one of four teens who died in a Seminole crash late Friday. Seminole High students — Nathan Richardson, Joseph Ruzecki and Keith MacCollom— were also killed in the crash.
Monday morning, in Feldhake's FCAT reading class, most teens sat at their desks sobbing as Feldhake shared stories about Smith, a junior.
He wasn't there. But his memory was.
Feldhake placed a picture of Smith on the desk where he usually sat.
It was empty. The gregarious youth preferred to sit alone to focus on his studies, she said.
"Miss, I know I work better by myself," he would say.
Feldhake passed out pins she made to honor Smith. Each had a picture of a basketball, because it "meant the world to him," she said.
She handed out tissues and blotted student's faces.
Through their tears, his classmates tried to focus on the positives, the silly things he did: How he had a wardrobe of snazzy sneakers. And how he never left his desk to throw out trash. Instead, he'd toss stuff across the room using the trash bin as a basket of sorts, classmate Johnathan Loricco, 18, said.
Feldhake fought back tears of her own.
"Teachers are supposed to be strong," she said. "Teachers are supposed to have it together."
Lorri Helfand can be reached at 727-445-4155 or email@example.com.