The teachers were excited for what this school year would bring.
“We have a wonderful year ahead of us!,” Eva Mireles wrote earlier this school year in a post on the Robb Elementary School website, introducing herself to her fourth grade class.
Her enthusiasm was matched by her co-teacher of five years.
“I am so excited to begin this new school year already!” Irma Garcia wrote on the same site.
Their optimistic start to the school year was cut tragically short this week.
The two women, both mothers, died Tuesday, alongside 19 of their students after a gunman entered a classroom and began firing. Family members believe the women died attempting to shield their students from danger.
They were both remembered as heroes.
Mireles’ only daughter, Adalynn Ruiz, said in a tribute on social media that her “beautiful mom” was her best friend, her twin and “the half that makes me whole.”
Mireles, an educator for 17 years, according to her profile on the school’s website, leaves behind her daughter, her husband, and three “furry friends.” She loved running, hiking and biking.
“Mom, you are a hero. I keep telling myself that this isn’t real,” Ruiz wrote. “I just want to hear your voice. I want to hear you talking to our dogs with that silly voice you make so high that wakes everyone up in the morning.”
She said she wanted to hug her mother “one last time” and feel the calluses on her hands, “because you were not only a teacher during the day, but the most hardworking cross fitter in the afternoon.”
She wrote that her mother would call her every day at 4:30 pm She said Mireles would sing Rihanna’s “Diamonds” in her “loudest voice” when the two sang karaoke together.
“I don’t know how to do this life without you, but I will take care of dad. I will take care of our dogs and I will forever say your name so you are always remembered, Eva Mireles, 4th grade teacher at Robb Elementary who selflessly jumped in front of her students to save their lives,” she wrote. “My heart will forever be broken.”
Amber Ybarra, Mireles’ cousin, described her as “absolutely vivacious.”
“She was definitely an adventurer,” Ybarra said, adding she last saw Mireles at Christmas.
“Her cooking was amazing. Her laughter from her was contagious, and she’s going to be missed. I just completely feel for everyone who lost a loved one yesterday,” Ybarra said.
Audrey Garcia, whose daughter Gabby was in Mireles’ third grade class years ago, remembered her as a kind and involved teacher.
Mireles never looked at Gabby, who has Down syndrome and is now 23, “as having less potential than anyone else in that classroom.”
“Everybody in that classroom mattered to her,” she said.
Garcia said Mireles kept up with what was happening in Gabby’s life through social media even after her family moved to San Antonio.
Around Christmas she would tell Garcia “how much she enjoyed” putting up an ornament Gabby had given her.
“Every Christmas she would reach out and tell me how much that ornament meant to her,” Garcia said.
Garcia shared a photo on social media she said she had taken of her daughter and Mireles because “the world needs to see exactly who she was as a human being and as a teacher.”
She described her daughter in the photo, wearing noise-canceling headphones because the noise could distract her easily, she said. Meanwhile, Mireles sat across from her and “would do hands-on teaching with her.”
“The community lost a lot when they lost her because so many children are going to miss out on having her there,” she said.
Irma Garcia, who began her 23rd year of teaching this year at Robb Elementary, according to her school website profile, had been married for 24 years and left behind four children. She loved to barbecue with her husband of her.
“She truly is, not only me and my family, but to a lot of people, a hero,” said John Martinez, who said he is Garcia’s nephew.
In 2019, Garcia was one of 19 San Antonio-area teachers named a finalist for a Trinity University prize that recognizes excellence in teaching.
Her son said a friend in law enforcement who was at the scene saw Garcia in her classroom, her body shielding students.
Martinez said his aunt “was so extremely loving” and was “very passionate about her kids, especially with her teaching.”
He said Garcia was “one of the funniest people I’ve ever really met” and had “joy in her, really, at all times.”
Martinez said he was fortunate to have recently celebrated his birthday with Garcia.
“She brings light, really, to every room that she’s in,” he said. “She really was the life of the party.”
“She really was an amazing person,” he said.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism