Watch CBSN Live

Colleen Ritzer, slain Danvers High School teacher, remembered as passionate, inspirational

DANVERS, Mass. As police investigate the killing of a 24-year-old math teacher, her family and students remembered her as passionate about her job, CBS Boston station WBZ-TV reports.

The body of Colleen Ritzer was found in the woods after investigators said they found blood in a second-floor bathroom at Danvers High School.

Philip Chism, 14, stands during his arraignment for the death of Danvers High School teacher Colleen Ritzer in Salem District Court in Salem, Mass., Oct. 23, 2013.
Philip Chism, 14, stands during his arraignment in Salem District Court in Salem, Mass., Oct. 23, 2013. AP Photo/Boston Herald - Patrick Whittemore

Philip Chism, 14, was charged with her murder and ordered held without bail at his arraignment in Salem District Court Wednesday afternoon.

Ritzer's family released a statement Wednesday afternoon asking for privacy.

"At this time we are mourning the tragic death of our amazing, beautiful daughter and sister," the statement read. "Everyone that knew and loved Colleen knew of her passion for teaching and how she mentored each and every one of her students."

Riley Doyle, 14 and a freshman in Ritzer's geometry class, told that her teacher "was always really upbeat and positive and excited about math."

"She made every lesson like you wanted to learn it," Riley said. "For the first time, math became one of my favorite classes."

Riley said Ritzer's students thought highly of her.

"She was always very courteous to her students, and she would never talk down to them," Riley said. "She treated them like people."

Riley's sister Regan Doyle, 17 and a senior at the high school, told that she didn't have Ritzer as a teacher, but she had "never heard one bad thing about her."

"My sister would always come home from school saying how she was her favorite teacher," Regan said.

Regan said Ritzer's death came as a shock to the school.

"It's just a tragedy, and it's so bad because she's so young," Regan said, "and you could tell that she really loved her job and the kids, and it's sad that this had to happen."

Crime scene investigators enter Danvers High School investigating the murder of teacher Colleen Ritzer whose body was found behind the school Wednesday morning Oct. 23, 2013. Kirk R. Williamson/Wicked Local Danvers

Ritzer's uncle told WBZ-TV his niece was a "beautiful girl and had a passion for teaching."

Ritzer graduated from Andover High School in 2007 before earning a Bachelor of Arts in math, magna cum laude, from Assumption College in Worcester in 2011.

She minored in psychology, with a secondary education concentration.

Assumption College President Francesco Cesareo said in a statement that Ritzer would be missed.

"The Assumption community will keep Colleen's family members in its thoughts and prayers during this time of great sorrow and loss," said Cesareo. "We pray that God will give them strength and comfort during these difficult days and commend Colleen to God's loving presence."

Danvers High senior Ryan Kelleher called Ritzer an inspiration.

"She was extremely nice; she definitely loved coming to school and seeing her students," Kelleher told WBZ-TV.

Ritzer's class website gives a glimpse of what kind of teacher Ritzer was and what she expected from her students.

Ritzer asked students to behave respectfully toward classmates, the environment and the teacher.

She asked students to come to class with a positive attitude and come for extra help before or after school when necessary.

The policies and the rest of a syllabus went home with students and their parents at the beginning of the year.

Danvers' public schools were closed Wednesday. The school department released a statement about Ritzer's murder.

"Today, the Danvers Public Schools lost a dynamic and brilliant ray of light," the statement read. "Colleen Ritzer was everything one could ask for in a teacher - dedicated, passionate and invested in her students. Our entire community will feel this loss for many years to come."

Ritzer's Twitter feed provided her students with the assigned homework each night.

It also detailed her first try at making apple crisp and urged followers to "find something good in everyday."

A tweet over the summer read:

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