Jason Appling 2017 TOTY banquet

Collins Hill High School language arts teacher Jason Appling, right, receives a school-level Teacher of the Year plaque from then-Gwinnett school board member Dan Seckinger at Gwinnett County Public Schools’ Teacher of the Year banquet in 2017. Collins Hill officials announced on Sunday that Appling died suddenly over the weekend.

The Collins Hill High School community is in mourning this week after language arts teacher Jason Appling, who was a former Collins Hill teacher of the year, died over the weekend.

Collins Hill Principal Kerensa Wing informed the school community of Appling’s death in a letter sent out to parents on Sunday. Appling’s cause of death was not disclosed in the letter.

“It is with a heavy heart that I share some very sad news with you,” Wing said in the letter. “Our school community was saddened to learn of the unexpected passing of Mr. Jason Appling over the weekend. Mr. Appling was a long-time, beloved language arts educator at our school.

“He was a caring teacher who cared deeply about the success and well-being of his students and I know that we all will miss him very much.”

Appling was Collins Hill’s teacher of the year in 2017 and had been an educator for more than 20 years. Prior to working at the school, he taught at Riverdale High School in Clayton County, according to an announcement from the Riverdale High School Alumni Association.

The educator’s Facebook page listed him as a graduate of Central Gwinnett High School and showed he was a fan of rock music — there is a picture of him with Ozzy Osborne on his social media page — as well as a husband.

Wing urged Collins Hill parents to be aware of his Appling’s death may affect students at the school, explaining that it can be difficult for teenagers to deal with death. The principal also told parents that counselors will visit Appling’s classes to talk with his students.

“Losing a teacher, friend, and member of our school family is hard, especially when it happens suddenly,” Wing said.

Parents of Collins Hill students who are upset over Appling’s death are being warned to expect their children to exhibit mood swings. The parents are urged to accept those mood swings and to provide support for their children as well as an environment where they can share their feelings.

The parents are encouraged to answer their kids questions honestly and with factual information.

They are being told to let their kids decide how and from whom they receive support as they process their grief. Parents are being told to encourage their teens to not only participate in school-based education support groups, but also use physical outlets to release their grief.

Collins Hill officials are also urging families to be prepared if their children begin exhibiting physical symptoms of grief, such as illness, body aches and pains. Families are also encouraged to give their kids some flexibility in completing school work as they handle their feelings.

“Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes and our students may need additional support,” Wing said in her letter to families. “The information provided ... is designed to equip families with a basic understanding of how to effectively yet sensitively support kids when a death occurs.”

I'm a Crawford Long baby who grew up in Marietta and eventually wandered to the University of Southern Mississippi for college. Earned a BA in journalism (double minor in political science and history). Previously worked in Florida and Clayton County.

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