Eric Thiel, a science teacher at Amador Valley High School who had been with the Pleasanton school district since 1985, died Saturday from an unspecified medical issue.
Thiel had just retired from teaching after a nearly four-decade career, with Friday serving as his last day at Amador, district spokesman Patrick Gannon said. He was 65 years old.
"Our hearts go out to the Amador Valley High School community, Eric's family, and to all those who knew and loved him over his incredible 38-year teaching career," Gannon said Monday. "Eric reminded us that great educators are not just teachers; they are also leaders, mentors and friends to their students and fellow colleagues."
Thiel had taught at Amador since 1992. He joined PUSD in 1985 as a teacher at Foothill High until moving over to Amador.
In 2014, Thiel was recognized as Claes Nobel Educator of the Year by the National Society of High School Scholars, which presents the award to the "best of the best," according to NSHSS.
Thiel was responsible for starting the district's AP Biology program as well as co-creating the "Project Creek Watch" program, NSHSS officials said in an announcement about their recognition.
He received numerous accolades over the years, including PUSD Teacher of the Year, the PTA Excellence in Education Award and the Bank of America Local Hero Award.
"Exciting students about biology is my ultimate goal and if I can do that while adequately preparing them for state and national exams, then and only then do I have some sense of accomplishment," Thiel told the NSHSS three years ago. "Increasing numbers of students selecting biology as their major accompanied by email messages from past students currently in college thanking me for properly preparing them is the greatest reward."
Gannon said that Amador staff had a get-together Sunday night to support one another, and counseling was offered for students and staff at the school Monday. Friday was the last day of the school year, and Thiel attended the school's graduation that evening.
Amador principal Mike Williams informed parents and students of Thiel's death in an email to the school community late Sunday night.
"It is with sadness that I inform you that Amador Valley High School teacher, Eric Thiel, passed away on June 3rd from a medical complication. Our hearts go out to the Amador Valley High School community, Eric's family, and to all those who knew and loved Eric over his incredible 38-year teaching career," Williams said.
"Please keep our Amador community, and Eric's family and friends, in your thoughts," he added.
A GoFundMe has been set up to raise funds for Thiel's family. It had raised nearly $22,000 as of Monday afternoon.
This is the second time a PUSD teacher has died in the past two months. Carla Boerman, a Pleasanton Middle School English teacher, was killed in a car crash in Pleasanton on April 4.