Tri-Cities teacher dies suddenly after medical emergency at school

Ridge View Elementary in Kennewick
Ridge View Elementary in Kennewick Kennewick School District

A 38-year-old Kennewick teacher died Monday after suffering a medical emergency at the school while getting ready for the start of the school year.

Nicole Winans, a second-grade teacher at Ridge View Elementary, died Monday afternoon, according to a Kennewick School District memo sent to staff.

“This news will come as a shock to many of us who know Nicole as a proud new mother of a baby boy,” the memo said.

Emergency medical officials were called to the school at 7001 W. 13th Ave. shortly after 11 a.m.

Nicole Winans

She was taken to Trios Southridge Hospital in Kennewick, where she died, said Benton County Coroner Bill Leach. An autopsy is planned Thursday.

She started working at the school district in 2013 and had taught at both Ridge View and Edison elementary schools.

“She had a personality that children gravitated to, and a positive approach that brightened the world,” said her first principal, Bruce Cannard, who is now retired. “I cannot picture Nicole without a smile on her face. Our school district has lost a beloved teacher.”

Cannard, the former principal at Edison Elementary, first hired her to teach half-time kindergarten and then for a first-grade class the following year.

“Nicole had a special place in her heart for children, especially for those who needed extra attention and support,” he said. “There were often times when Nicole would go to extremes to help a student be as successful as they could. She understood that some children required different approaches and novel accommodations in order to understand the material and show what they could do.”

He said she established a “warm classroom family” and liked to include movement and music to help make learning fun and memorable.

And she didn’t stop when the work day ended.

Winans helped train students in the after-school program called Girls on the Run. The third- through fifth-graders build up to participate in a 5K run.

Girls on the Run of Southeast Washington posted on social media that she was a long-time coach.

Teachers were back at work Monday getting their rooms ready for the first day of school. Classes were scheduled to start Tuesday, but Kennewick schools remained closed because of a teacher strike.

A GoFundMe account is collecting donations for the Winans family to help with expenses, including for the baby.