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Police officers, firefighters serve as substitutes so teachers can attend colleague’s funeral

(WWBT) -

Police officers and firefighters in one Arkansas town gave a helping hand to the school district in their community Wednesday, serving as substitute teachers at the middle school so staff members could attend a co-worker’s funeral.

According to NBC affiliate WHO-TV, 32-year-old Jennifer Nelms taught fifth graders at East Hills Middle School in Greenwood, Arkansas. Colleague Karen Benjamin shared a classroom with Nelms.

“She just I think took whatever she was thrown and just spun it positively,” Benjamin said to KFSM.

She said Nelms wasn’t feeling well on Friday and left school early.

“So she thought, ‘I'm gonna go home; I'm gonna sleep. I'm gonna clean my house and I'll see you Monday morning.’ That's what she said Friday when she left,” Benjamin explained.

Tragically, Nelms died Saturday from complications associated with Lupus. Co-workers told KFSM she was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease about two years ago.

On Wednesday, 15 Greenwood police officers, as well as the police and fire chiefs acted as substitute teachers so Nelms’ fellow teachers could attend her funeral.

“Ms. Nelms was a supporter of the fire and police department,” Fire Chief Stewart Bryan said to KFSM. “She`s been a supporter of us for many years.  Now that the school`s in need, we wanted to help the school out. We wanted to make sure all the teachers were available to attend the funeral.”

The school’s parent-teacher organization also made the police officers and staff members lunch Wednesday after they returned from the funeral service.

“It's certainly an honor to be in the class that she taught in, and she was a great person, obviously loved by a lot of people and students, and she's gonna be greatly missed,” Police Chief William Dawson said to KFSM.

Nelms leaves behind a husband and two young sons.

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