A popular staff member at the Westridge School for Girls died after a battle with Coronavirus according to an email by school officials.
“I write today with the unthinkable news of the loss of Carol van Zalingen, a dearly beloved member of our school community. Carol, our Lower and Middle School Dean of Student Support, died today just after 4 a.m. in Huntington Hospital from complications related to COVID–19,” wrote Elizabeth J. McGregor, head of the Westridge School for Girls.
To aid mourning students, school was canceled on Tuesday and online support groups were provided.
Officials at the school are in the process of developing an online memorial for Zalingen.
An online celebration of her life will be held at a later date.
Zalingen joined Westridge in 2008 as an eighth grade English teacher. In 2015 she transitioned to her current role of Dean of Lower and Middle School student support.
The latter role combined her exquisite talent as an educator and her seemingly bottomless capacity for empathy and caring, according to the email.
In the classroom she was known to connect in a very special way with each of her students. Her colleagues describe her as “a safe space for students and adults.”
“She was known as gentle and wise, always reaching out to help others in a supportive and non-judgmental manner,” McGregor wrote. “She never wanted a light shined in her direction, but her ability to listen, be present, and hold time and space for students and friends was uncanny.”
Zalingen was instrumental in helping students progress along a path to being independent learners and finding and following a positive personal narrative. Many Upper School students consistently cited her as one of the faculty members who made a significant impact on their lives. She indeed changed lives and made a mark on our hearts.
“Please keep Carol and her family close to your hearts. She would not want the attention, but she certainly deserves every ounce of love in the universe – she was a special person who touched so many lives.”