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Andover Patch Person of the Year

Her message in life helps a community deal with her death.

Colleen Ritzer, 24, of Andover, was a math teacher at Danvers High School. Credit: Courtesy
Colleen Ritzer, 24, of Andover, was a math teacher at Danvers High School. Credit: Courtesy
When Colleen Ritzer of Andover, 24, went to work each day as a math teacher at Danvers High School, she went with a passion for teaching. Loved by her students, she found ways every day to make math fun.

In October, the unthinkable happened. Ritzer was found murdered near Danvers High School, and one of her students was charged with the crime.

But it is her life, not her death, that makes Ritzer Andover Patch's Person of the Year.

"Colleen's gift was that of inspiration," Gina McDaniel, Ritzer's cousin, said at Ritzer's funeral. "She possessed an energetic intensity that is rarely seen."

Ritzer is remembered by her family and friends as an inspiration. In the face of tragedy, her loved ones and the community have embraced the message Ritzer carried throughout each day:

"No matter what happens in life, be good to people. Being good to people is a wonderful legacy to leave behind."

It's that gift of inspiration and passion for teaching that brought hundreds of students to her funeral and helps them cope with their massive loss.

Ritzer always managed to find something good in every day, McDaniel continued at the service. Ritzer even kept a "memory jar," in which she saved records of good things that happened to her.

Born in Lawrence and raised in Andover, Ritzer graduated from Andover High School in 2007 and Assumption College in Worcester in 2011. She was currently pursuing a graduate degree at Salem State College. She was a communicant of St. Augustine Church in Andover.

It's unclear what conversations will emerge from the criminal case surrounding Ritzer's death. But when remembering her life, the message is clear. She was good to people, she taught with inspiration, and that was her legacy.

And that is a gift Colleen Ritzer leaves her students, her loved ones and her community.

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