The cards, flowers and signs have been multiplying along a wall in the 700 Building of Pleasanton Middle School ever since students and staff returned from spring break Monday.
A jar for notes and remembrances first went up outside Carla Boerman's classroom, adorned with a ribbon in red -- her favorite color. A sign from her students followed on the window outside: Boerman Brave.
Boerman, a sixth- and eighth-grade English teacher at the school since 2015, died as a result of major injuries she sustained in a traffic collision in Pleasanton last week. She was 61.
As the investigation into the crash continues, the Pleasanton community is mourning and coming together to remember a woman revered for her humor, optimism and passion for teaching.
"She was very vivacious and funny," Pleasanton Middle School principal Jill Butler said. "She had this incredible wit and such an optimistic outlook on life. She was so pleasant to be around."
Janice Clark, president of the Association of Pleasanton Teachers, said in an email Tuesday that those who worked with Boerman "are deeply struggling" with her death.
"Her love for teaching and her positive outlook on life will be greatly missed by her friends and colleagues at Pleasanton Middle School," Clark said.
The magnitude of the loss is evident in and around Boerman's classroom, where she taught English to 99 children.
A group of kids came to school this week in homemade T-shirts emblazoned with "Boerman Squad." Students have placed a sign on her chair at the front of the classroom asking that no one sit in it until it can be delivered to her husband. They began brainstorming ideas for memorializing Mrs. Boerman -- have everybody sign a copy of a book she liked called "Love That Dog," paint a mural or put up a plaque inscribed with "Oh my lands!," one of her favorite expressions.
Outside her classroom, notes line a table and fill butcher paper taped to her doors. They are from her students as well as those who didn't know her, with messages like, "You were the light that a lot of us needed," and "She was there for anyone."
"She really connected with the kids and honored them for who they were," Butler said. "She didn't believe in a lot of homework; she thought kids should be kids. She had a more laid-back approach."
The loss has been difficult on everyone, Butler said. The school brought in grief counselors for students and staff this week, and on Sunday afternoon about half the staff gathered to mourn together.
"We needed to be OK before we greeted our kids Monday morning," Butler said. "We needed to be strong for them."
Since classes resumed, Butler said she has been encouraging students to think about the impact Mrs. Boerman had on them that they can be a better person from. The school community has also been thinking about how they can honor her. So far students have expressed interest in having a ceremony on campus and setting up a college fund for her baby granddaughter. And next Friday, the school will hold a "fund run" with proceeds going to Boerman's family.
"She was very loved by everyone," Butler said.
Boerman died after a Subaru Outback she was a passenger in was involved in a three-car collision near the intersection of Hopyard Road and Owens Drive shortly after 6 p.m. April 4, Pleasanton police Sgt. Benjamin Sarasua said in a statement last week.
The initial investigation indicates a Toyota Rav 4 was traveling northbound on Hopyard Road when it collided with the Subaru, which was turning onto eastbound Owens Drive from Hopyard, Sarasua said. A Nissan Versa was also involved in the incident.
Boerman suffered major injuries in the crash. Life-saving measures were attempted on her at the scene, and she was transported to Eden Medical Center, where she later died from her injuries, Sarasua said.
The driver of the Subaru sustained major injuries and was transported to John Muir Hospital. An infant who was properly restrained in a car seat sustained minor injuries and was taken to Children's Medical Center, where she was treated and released.
The driver and passenger of the Toyota were transported to Eden Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries. The driver was released from the hospital and the passenger is still recovering from her injuries, according to police. The driver of the Nissan was uninjured and released from the scene.
Pleasanton police did not release the names of anyone involved in the crash.
The crash remains under investigation, Sarasua said, adding all cars involved are being examined for possible mechanical issues. It does not appear drugs or alcohol factored into the collision.
Anyone with information about the crash is asked to call the Pleasanton Police Department at 931-5100.