An eighth grade math teacher at Grassland Middle School in Williamson County passed away Monday at a hospital in Williamsburg, Virginia.
Thirty-three-year-old Jim Benton was on a non-sponsored school trip with students when he became ill and was taken to a nearby hospital.
School officials say his cause of death is not known.
Benton's students were notified of his death Monday night. Letters will also be sent home to parents.
“I think the kids are going to be devastated. Mr. Benton had a casual spirit about him that was contagious. The kids gravitated toward him almost from day one,” said Dr. Lily Leffler, principal of Grassland Middle School.
The California native was hired by Williamson County Schools over the summer and was in his first year teaching in the district. He had taught elsewhere for the past decade.
Grief counselors will be at the school when students return from fall break Wednesday morning.
The funeral will take place in California. Arrangements are incomplete.
A memorial service is being planned for family and friends in Tennessee at a later time.
Benton leaves behind a wife and a 10-month-old daughter the couple adopted last December.
In a statement, his wife said, “Jim Benton made an unforgettable mark on the lives of those he knew – family, friends and students alike. He and I were fortunate to travel the world together, but nothing compared to the journey on which he led thousands of students in his life. Although our hearts ache from his loss, his legacy of education and kindness will continue.”
Benton's family asks memorials are made to Oak Park Unified School District, Attn: Dr. Tony Knight, 5801 East Conifer Street, Oak Park, CA 91377.
Funds will support a student who would not otherwise be able to attend the eighth grade trip and/or the senior class trip to Europe at Medea Creek Middle School.