Karen Bisgaard, a fifth-grade teacher at Viking Elementary School in east-central Fresno, had a gentle way of communicating with students and their parents.
Ron Bohigian, who served as principal at Viking for 14 years until June 2012, said Bisgaard displayed extraordinary patience with her pupils.
"She was really a gentle spirit, always pleasant with people," he said. "She was very tolerant of the kids and I think her kids responded really well to her."
She died Tuesday in a single-car accident at Herndon and Brawley avenues in Fresno, a day before her 56th birthday on Christmas Day.
A witness told Fresno police that Bisgaard was driving westbound on Herndon Avenue when she lost control of her car and struck a tree. She was thrown from the vehicle.
Periodically, parents will complain about a teacher, but Bohigian said he doesn't recall any gripes about Bisgaard.
"When you don't get complaints from people, you know the teacher is doing something right," he said.
Fresno Unified School District officials said Bisgaard taught at Viking for five years.
Bisgaard taught third grade for several years before moving to fifth grade in August, said fellow fifth-grade teacher Judy Mitsuyoshi.
"The kids seemed to love her, she was a really sweet lady," Mitsuyoshi said.
During recess, students gravitated toward Bisgaard, she said.
"You could see a lot of kids talking with her or just hanging out by her," Mitsuyoshi said.
A student who had difficulties in fourth grade last year appeared to be excelling this year under Bisgaard's teaching, she said.
"She kept telling me how great he was doing," Mitsuyoshi said. "He was one of the first people I thought of after I heard about" (her death).
Several of Bisgaard's students also had her in third grade and Mitsuyoshi said they may also be affected after losing their teacher.
"I think it will be hardest for the kids who had her for a second year," she said.
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