'We can't believe it's Mrs. Sunford,' students on teacher's murder

'We can't believe it's Mrs. Sunford,' students on teacher's murder
WAPATO, Wash. -- The dark, dreary afternoon matched the mood of Wapato students Monday afternoon as they were let out of class.

Michelle Diaz is an 8th grader who was an art student in Desiree Sunford's class. Michelle says Sunford was well-liked by students.

The news of her sudden death quickly spread through the hallways.
“We can't believe Mrs. Sunford,” Michelle said. “That's pretty much what everyone was saying. Like, we can't believe its Mrs. Sunford.”

Michelle says she's always liked art, but says that liking turned into a passion because of Sunford’s teaching style.

"She kind of pushed us to do things,” Michelle said. “And if we'd give up she'd have us do it over."

Michelle describes Sunford as a teacher who was extremely organized and encouraged her students to express themselves.

"She liked to have everything loud and really happy, instead of most teachers that want you to be quiet and do your work. She actually had you talk to people and stuff like that,” Michelle said.

Michelle's mother, Cheryl, said she noticed that as Michelle's art improved, so did her self-confidence. Cheryl says Sunford encouraged her daughter to be her best, at a time when she really needed it.

"That made me feel really well, really good,” Cheryl said. “Because, that's happened to me before; where I didn't feel encouraged,” Cheryl said.

Michelle says Sunford was more than a teacher-- she ultimately became a friend. Hearing she passed away wasn't easy.

"Me, personally, I cried,” Michelle said.

An entire community is saying goodbye to a teacher who apparently touched a lot of lives.

"She was a great teacher. And I really wish she could still be here for us,” Cheryl said. “For my daughter and all of the other children. It's a great loss.”