Trecia Peterson, vice principal of South Charleston High School and former state assistant principal of the year, died Wednesday after a long battle with breast cancer.
"She was strong, witty, intelligent, loyal, dedicated and loved South Charleston High School and loved these kids," Principal Michael Arbogast said.
"She told the children at South Charleston High School that they were her children. She had a thousand of them."
He said Peterson struggled with breast cancer for several years but refused to let it interfere with her work and declined to take breaks when offered.
"She was here last Friday," he said.
Students planned a candlelight vigil in her memory to be held on the football field at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.
Students said she set an example through her strength and sense of caring.
"Mrs. Peterson, as a vice principal, was an inspiration," said Matthew Massie, student body president. "She had an incredible sense of discipline, knew how to run the school, and all the while she was suffering from this terrible disease. The dignity she showed was downright magnificent. It's powerful stuff."
Meredith Cain, this year's Miss Black Eagle, said, "Everyone I know has something good to say about Mrs. Peterson. Even through her fight against breast cancer, she was willing to go to her limits to fight for her school and her kids - the students. She loved us like we were her own and we should remember her as the strong and loving woman she was."
In 2010, Peterson was recognized as West Virginia Assistant Principal of the Year.
"I would just like to say that Trecia Peterson was a very dedicated professional," Kanawha County Schools Superintendent Ron Duerring said. "She loved children and worked very hard to meet their needs at South Charleston High School. She did so much to improve the curriculum and learning environment for the students. She will be missed."