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Teacher's suicide stuns school community

LARGO — Linda Joy Taylor had a reputation for motivating the students she taught at Largo Middle School.

On Tuesday, the school community was reeling from the news that she had taken her own life.

The seventh-grade language arts teacher shot herself on the school grounds Monday, Largo police Lt. Mike Loux said.

She was found about 5 p.m. by a maintenance worker in front of the school on Eighth Avenue SE, Loux said. The school was closed at the time for the winter holidays.

Taylor, 47, left a note, but Loux said he would not reveal the contents.

"Her kids loved her. They listened to her not just like a teacher or mentor, but like a mom figure," said Kathi Bentley, a former assistant principal at Largo Middle who now works at Pinellas Park Middle School. "She had a way to make the kids do well for her and be successful."

Bentley said Taylor, who has worked for Pinellas County schools for nearly nine years, often volunteered for extra duties and helped her out with school skating parties.

Mark Hunsinger, a sixth-grade science teacher at the school, said Taylor was "very kid-oriented" and active in an incentive program called Tiger Bucks that rewards students with extracurricular activities for positive behavior.

Taylor had a reputation for being strict, but not too strict, said former student Keila Wright, 15.

"She was fun to be around," said Wright, now a freshman at Largo High. "Sometimes kids would upset her, but usually she was in a good mood."

She recalled that Taylor wore heels and lipstick and "always looked pretty."

Largo Middle School principal Fred Ulrich would not comment specifically about Taylor, but said the school has a plan in place to support students and faculty members when they return to school Jan. 5.

"We will have counselors, social workers and our school psychologist," Ulrich said. "All will be available come Monday morning for both students and staff, for any kind of grief counseling or whatever we can do to help them through this trauma."

Taylor lived in Belleair Bluffs, according to school records. She has worked for the school system since March 1, 2000, said Andrea Zahn, a school spokeswoman. Other personnel information about Taylor was not accessible because school system offices are closed for the holidays, Zahn said.

Times staff writer Donna Winchester and researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.

Teacher's suicide stuns school community 12/23/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 31, 2008 3:20pm]
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