Nov 13, 2013 8:40 PM by Nathan O'Neal
AJO, Ariz. - A former teacher was killed in the devastating typhoon that hit the coastal city of Tacloban in the Philippines.
Rebecca Estolano, 39, used to teach science for middle school in Ajo. She returned home to the Philippines a few years ago to reunite with her family. The tragic news of her death that has hit especially hard for students and staff.
Students and staff are now coming together to raise funds for relief efforts in the Philippines.
For the students it was hard to digest the loss of their former teacher.
"I believe it, but at the same time, I didn't want to," said Jesus Mariscal, one of Rebecca's former students.
"I was just distraught, I didn't know what to say," said Sahin Behaire, an 8th grade student.
Super Typhoon Haiyan made landfall six days ago, almost flattening the city of Tacloban. The death toll reached more than 2,000 while millions of Filipinos in the U.S. still frantically try to track down family members.
The school and community of Ajo has strong ties with the Philippines - with many of the school's staff maintaining roots within the region.
"It was a time of great anxiety for our teachers," said Brian MacKenzie, the school principal. "It's still the case that not everyone is sure that their friends and family are safe."
Anastacia Decinal works in the school library and is a friend of Rebecca's - she remembers her as a kind-hearted person.
"I felt so bad and everything just flashed back, all our communications," Decinal said.
While family was a priority for Rebecca, friends remember that teacher allowed her to make an impression.
"I think she's a good teacher because the children got to like her... love her, I believe," Decinal told News 4 Tucson.
Now the students are taking it upon themselves to raise money for the relief effort - giving back to a community to a community that already gives so much to them.
You can reach the Ajo School District Office for making any kind of donation at 520-387-5618