Allapattah students mourn the loss of their beloved teacher

Students at Allapattah Middle School not only had to prepare for FCAT Writes, but they had to deal with the death of their beloved writing teacher.

Gilfreada Roberson died at 3:50 p.m. Feb. 23, the exact time school was dismissed.

Students learned of her passing on Feb. 25, the same day the school hosted an FCAT Writes Prep rally to memorialize their beloved teacher and to motivate them to do well on the writing test, which was on Feb. 26.

Bridget McKinney, the school’s principal, planned the rally for the eighth graders and challenged them to honor Roberson with high writing scores. Roberson, who had been at the school 27 years, passed away from kidney disease.

“Ms. Roberson called them her butterflies; she saw the beauty in the kids before they saw their own beauty,” said McKinney. “This was a moment to tell them that we did have a tragic loss, but to also channel that energy to show her that they’ve blossomed.”

Roberson’s passing was tough for the school family; she had never taught at any other school. Her mother, Bobbie Roberson, said she was born to be a teacher.

“She understood them,” she said. “She was very tough on students. The funny thing about her, they all end up loving her.”

Gilfreada Roberson was born on Sept. 26, 1964, in Miami. She never married nor had any children. She received her associate’s degree from Miami Dade College and her bachelor’s in language arts from St. Thomas University.

She started teaching at Allapattah Middle School in 1986.

“She was still one of the few teachers who made home visits,” McKinney said.

Roberson’s mother said she was amazed at how her daughter had the patience and love for students, some of whom were troubled or delinquent.

“My daughter was an angel, that’s what everybody called her,” she said. “She was giving and loving, always had a smile on her face.”

In a letter to the school, Miami-Dade County Superintendent Alberto Carvalho recognized the passing of the veteran teacher.

“Please express my sincere condolences to your staff and let them know that we here at Miami-Dade County Public Schools collectively mourn Gilfreada’s loss,” he said.

Students had no idea their teacher was sick. She wanted the students to focus on the FCAT, rather than focus on her.

Jasmine Henderson, 13, said Roberson taught her how to organize her writing ideas.

“She was like a role model. She always kept me on topic,” said Henderson. “I would never skip her class or do anything bad there.”

Christopher DeJesus, 15, said the news of his teacher’s passing was shocking.

“It made me feel sad. It made me feel like I lost someone in my family,” he said.

Christopher felt a little nervous about taking the writing test, but the rally motivated him.

“The rally gets me hyped seeing that all my teachers actually want me to pass,” said Christopher.

McKinney enlisted former St. Louis Rams NFL wide receiver Mark Clayton to motivate the students, who greeted Clayton with a roar.

“Even in the mist of what recently happened, prior to that they were putting in all this work, so the biggest thing is to remember the preparation,” said Clayton. “I wanted to encourage the students to know that she would want you to do well. She would be proud of you.”

Read more Schools stories from the Miami Herald

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category