Michelle truly "had a passion for working with students with learning disabilities," said Ignacio Rodriguez, the principal of the school where she worked as a special educator.
The South Florida community is honoring a teacher who died by drowning while attempting to save her 10-year-old. Cutler Bay Middle School teacher Michelle Vargas and her autistic son Michael were visiting his paternal grandparents in El Salvador to celebrate her 49th birthday. On Sunday, the mother-child duo went for a swim at the El Pimental Beach located in the La Paz Department, where the unfortunate tragedy took place.
When Michael began swimming in deeper waters, she pursued him, but an unfortunate riptide pulled her under. Her body was found a few hours later when it resurfaced. Her friend, Alicia Giraud has organized a GoFundMe for the family, where she writes, "If you knew Michelle personally, you know she’d give up her life 100 times if it meant saving Michael."
Michelle taught grades 6, 7, and 8 in addition to special education, according to Cutler Bay Middle School Principal Ignacio Rodriguez, who spoke to CBS. Michelle was a "unique individual," in the words of Rodriguez, who truly "had a passion for working with students with learning disabilities." He told the publication, "She had a way of connecting with her students that was just beyond a normal teacher." He further added in an interview with Miami Herald, “She had the ability to read them, to connect with them. They looked to her for guidance. She was a mother figure to these kids.”
"I can honestly say Michelle was an incredible human being and will be sincerely missed by many," Giraud wrote on GoFundMe. "She was one of the few people I called a friend."
The GoFundMe is not far from the truth, as many continue to mourn her, calling her one of the kindest people they knew. Michelle "impacted the lives of Cutler Bay Middle School students for nearly a decade," Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Jose Dotres expressed in a homage to the "beloved and respected teacher."
"From all of us at Miami-Dade County Public Schools, we extend our heartfelt condolences to the Vargas family during this difficult time," Dotres said at the press conference. “I will forever be grateful for all you did for me and my children,” Lyzette Cardentey commented on the GoFundMe page. “They say it takes a village to raise children and you were my village. Daniel, Nataly, and I will always keep you in our hearts.”
"She would give you the shirt off her back if she needed to," Rodriguez shared.
Giraud concluded the fundraiser by sharing that the family needs all the help they can get, "I ask for your donations to help her family give Michelle a proper funeral and burial here in Miami, and to help Michael receive the care he will need for the rest of his life. Please donate what you can, and hug your loved ones tight. This could happen to any of us."
Cover Image Source: Gofundme