'She felt like one of us': Central York community mourns loss of beloved teacher
Erin Walker, knowing her classroom was always chilly, kept sweatshirts and blankets on hand for her students.
“One of the days I went into her room, she had on this enormous — like huge, baggie — sweatshirt with a hood up over her head," remembered former student Michaela Adcock. "She had on these giant sunglasses and she’s listening to [rapper] Biggie."
When Adcock asked what her teacher was doing, Walker simply replied: "Hey — welcome to class!"
That, the 28-year-old said, is why so many people are mourning Walker's death: "She felt like one of us."
Walker, 36, died Sunday after she was shot Saturday in an apparent "domestic dispute" with a neighbor, who was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to the York County Coroner's Office.
On Monday, the office identified the neighbor as Daniel Berry, 59.
Berry was fighting with Walker when he shot her and then himself, according to the coroner's office. He was found outside his home with a gunshot wound to the head.
Colleagues, friends and former students like Adcock took to social media Monday to express their disbelief and sadness at the sudden loss of a teacher who left a big imprint on the community.
Walker remains a larger-than-life figure for Adcock, who had Walker as a social studies teacher in 2009 during their first year at the high school. Adcock recalls Walker running up to give her a big hug of congratulations when Adcock graduated in 2011.
"Go get the world," Walker told her student.
That’s what Walker was like: No one was a stranger.
“She was so outward with her expressions and always had a smile on her face and was always doing something crazy,” Adcock said.
Walker would check in on her students and what was going on in their lives, the former student said. She always knew what they were feeling and would give them a high five on a good day or a hug on a bad day.
“You could tell that … the caring and compassion was like genuinely there,” Adcock said.
Walker kept everyone in class on their toes. But when Walker needed to be serious, the teacher would level with her students. Adcock remembered days when students spoke about current events and cried because Walker made everything so real to them.
Those who were touched by Walker expressed dismay at how she died. Details remain scarce about the circumstances — and about the man who killed her.
Messages left with Berry's relatives were not returned Monday.
According to court records, Berry had numerous DUI charges dating as far back as 1988. The most recent case stemmed from a January 2021 arrest.
Berry's Facebook page featured a variety of far-right memes, including messages supporting gun rights and sharing COVID misinformation.
On Monday, students and staff gathered around a makeshift memorial for Walker at the Panther statue in front of Central York High School.
Central York Superintendent Peter J. Aiken emailed families Monday, asking parents to let the schools know if any students need to speak with a counselor for support.
“We feel fortunate for the time we have spent with her,” Aiken wrote. “She was a tremendous teacher and an outstanding person, and we are very saddened by her loss.”
Nathan Holtzinger, a 2017 graduate, and Christine Motter, a 2016 graduate, said Walker put her students first. She made sure her students were where they needed to be.
Walker was everyone’s cheerleader and didn't judge anyone, Adcock said. She didn’t let a student who felt like they were “a nobody” leave thinking that way. She made sure everyone knew they were somebody and had to leave their mark on the world.
All three former students said Walker was very community-driven. Adcock said Walker wanted to have a child, which most knew. The community celebrated with her when she gave birth to her now 3-year-old daughter Charlea, who has inherited her mother’s big, bright eyes and contagious smile.
“I think that Charlea will always be a little piece of her,” Adcock said.
— Reach Meredith Willse at email@example.com or on Twitter at @MeredithWillse.