Crystal Simpson, principal at Dodge Elementary School in Omaha, cared deeply about children, those who knew her said.
“Crystal was extremely passionate about serving students,” said Lisa Utterback, executive director who oversees principals at Omaha Public Schools.
Simpson’s husband, K.T. (Keith) Simpson, went further. “She was a supreme educator,” he said. “She took it to a whole nother level with her passion.”
Crystal Simpson, 47, died Friday at the Nebraska Medical Center, her husband said. He declined to talk about her unexpected death, saying he would rather emphasize her life.
Simpson became the principal at Dodge, near 97th and Maple Streets, in 2012 and had been employed by the district since 2000. She had previously been the assistant principal at Standing Bear Elementary.
Counseling will be available for Dodge Elementary students and staff when classes resume on Tuesday, Superintendent Mark Evans wrote in an email to parents of Dodge Elementary students.
“Crystal was a passionate and caring principal who loved all of her students,” Evans said in a statement to the newspaper. “She created a positive climate where all students and staff felt valued, truly a wonderful person.”
Simpson grew up in Omaha, graduating from Burke High School. She was a track athlete at Murray State College in Tishomingo, Oklahoma, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering. Simpson returned to Omaha and began working for the Lozier Corp., but she felt God was calling her to teach, her husband said.
So Simpson “stepped out in faith” and earned a teaching degree from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and later a master’s degree in teaching math from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She started in OPS as a fifth-grade teacher at Fontenelle Elementary.
Simpson especially enjoyed introducing students to math, science and engineering, K.T. Simpson said.
“She was always positive and full of life,” Utterback said. “Crystal loved rocking her fresh Nike tennis shoes with a sharp suit,” was known to work late nights and helped Dodge Elementary earn recognition as a Gold Award Winning School last year, Utterback said.
Simpson’s work with children extended outside of school, too. She coached track and taught Sunday school at Grace Apostolic Church, where she and her husband met and were married 22 years ago.
Crystal Simpson reached out to children whom others struggled with, K.T. said. She even took youths into her home to help them, including a young woman who had been incarcerated, he said. “She didn’t bring stray dogs home, she brought stray kids home. She loved them all as her own.”
A funeral service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, with visitation beginning at 9:30 a.m., at Grace Apostolic Church, 2216 Military Ave. Burial will be in Mount Hope Cemetery.
Several readers posted tributes to Simpson on The World-Herald’s Facebook page.
“I am at a loss of words. ... She was the best principal I have had the pleasure to work with,” said one woman. “She was such a huge support for my son when he was having troubles at school. She will be greatly missed.”
Other survivors include a daughter, Icy Monroe of Omaha; her mother, Virginia Landrum, also of Omaha; a grandson; and many brothers and sisters.
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