Second-grade teacher Ronda Andrews would do anything to help children, including eating live worms.
Last fall, she downed 12 wriggling worms with chocolate milk at an assembly at the Genesis Christian Academy in Tonganoxie to raise money to buy craft supplies for a sister school in Russia. She pulled the same stunt several years ago to help the Russian school buy a copy machine.
Andrews also spent the summer collecting new pairs of shoes for orphans in Haiti. She had amassed 250 pairs. But she won’t get to deliver them as she had planned to do on a mission trip this December.
She died Friday afternoon in a crash at a problematic intersection in Basehor, Kan., where construction of a new stoplight will begin later this month — too late to help the mother of six and grandmother of eight.
Andrews had been at her school Friday morning, then left for a haircut.
About 3:35 p.m., she pulled her car onto U.S. 24-40 from a stop sign at 158th Street to turn west. An eastbound truck slammed into her driver’s door. The two occupants of the truck were not hurt.
“We’re all reeling,” said Sharon Beeman, administrator of the Genesis Christian Academy, where Andrews had taught for 12 years. “Ronda was one of the most gifted and talented teachers I have ever had the experience of working with in 30 years of public and private education.”
Andrews’ death was particularly disturbing because it occurred at the same intersection where the school secretary’s 19-year-old daughter was killed in a 2007 wreck. Amanda Bixby died on her way home from work when another driver failed to stop at a stop sign.
“We’ve all been asking, ‘How many people need to be killed before they do something?’ ” Beeman said.
After a series of troubling accidents in 2010, city and county officials asked the Kansas Department of Transportation to study the highway and its speed limit of 65 mph in and around Basehor in Leavenworth County. The department concluded that the speed limit should not be lowered, but that the intersection needed a stoplight. Construction was set to begin Aug. 27, said Basehor Mayor David Breuer.
“It’s heartbreaking what happened,” Breuer said.
Andrews had four adult children and also had adopted her late brother’s two children when they were very young. The children now will be starting second and fourth grades without the only mother they have ever known.
Andrews had already started decorating her classroom for the fall semester, which will begin Aug. 22. Classroom rosters were also sent to students, many of whom had specifically requested her as a teacher.
“As a staff, we are trying to figure out how to start the year with joy,” Beeman said. “Ronda would not want us to start the year in sadness.”
Her funeral is being planned for the school gym Wednesday. Beeman expects an overflowing crowd.
“Next to her love for the Lord and her family, was her love for children,” Beeman said. “She was an incredibly giving person.”