SPOTSWOOD, NJ - The Spotswood School District is mourning the sudden passing of long time Spotswood High School English teacher John Chaya. Chaya's death shocked and saddened the staff and student body of Spotswood High School on Tuesday. The Pennsylvania native was a teacher at Spotswood High School fo 19 years. Chaya was extremely popular with students, especially the upper classmen. The teacher and writer often helped seniors craft their college essays.

The East Brunswick resident earned his BA from Cornell University and his Masters in Education from Pennsylvania State University. Before settling in as an English teacher in SHS, Chaya taught at Penn State. From 1989 to 1993, Chaya served as an officer in the United States Navy. He was stationed on the USS Dahlgren in Norfolk, Virginia and also worked as an OSHA officer. The creative writing and English teacher also spent some time working in the music industry as a buyer for a record chain.

At last month's Back-to-School Night, Chaya was explaining his diverse background to the parents in his second period College Composition class when one woman asked how he found Spotswood. Chaya smiled, noting how the close-knit school system and community resembled his small hometown in Pennsylvania. He commented how Spotswood was a perfect fit for him. The 51-year-old began his presentation to the parents with a poem just as he started each class with his students. Chaya said one of his goals for this school year was to get his seniors to appreciate the beauty of poetry without having to dissect it.

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"As an instructor, role-model, mentor and friend, words cannot express the feelings of sadness and loss that we all feel at this moment," Spotswood Superintendent Graham Peabody wrote in a letter sent to parents in the district yesterday afternoon notifying them of Chaya's death.

The high school is employing their counseling and crisis management resources to assist the students and staff in coping with Chaya's sudden loss. Members of the Rutgers Traumatic Loss Coalition will also be available at Spotswood High School for both the students and staff.