Dowagiac teacher identified as victim in fatal Howard Township crash

Published 4:10 pm Saturday, December 3, 2022

DOWAGIAC — A Justus Gage Elementary School teacher from Mishawaka was confirmed to be the victim of a fatal Howard Township crash Friday night.

In a letter to parents, teachers and community members, Dowagiac Union Schools Superintendent Jonathan Whan confirmed that the victim was 41-year-old second-grade teacher Sarah Proctor.

“I write this message with a heavy heart and deep sadness,” Whan wrote. “We learned that last night, one of our second-grade teachers, Sarah Proctor, was involved in a tragic car accident where she lost her life. We do not have any more details beyond what has been shared by the Sheriff’s department, but please take a moment to remember her family and friends in your thoughts and prayers this morning.”

According to Whan, the district has activated its crisis team, which will be available on Monday at Justus Gage Elementary for students and staff members needing assistance. 

“For all our families, but particularly those with children in her classroom, we will be taking steps to provide additional support for your child and your family in the face of this loss,” he wrote. “On Monday and in the week ahead, grief counselors and crisis team members will be available if you have questions or need assistance. As a school community, we must unite to surround and support each other during this difficult time.”

Whan encouraged those needing additional support to reach out to the appropriate building principal, counselor, or social worker. 

“When trauma occurs, ongoing help is available, and it is important that we are sensitive to those who are affected by this devastating news,” he wrote. “We cannot explain why tragedies occur, but we can extend compassionate care to those who are hurting. In the coming days, if additional resources are available that can be used with your child to process this difficult loss, they will be shared. The goal is to support talking with children about loss, death, and grief with age-appropriate strategies.”

Whan said the district will update parents and stakeholders if any additional information becomes available.

“Dowagiac Union Schools remains committed to providing an education of excellence to every child,” he said. “As we work through grief and treasured memories of our colleague, let’s stand together and surround her classroom and colleagues with love and support.”