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Body of missing first grade teacher from metro Atlanta found in Mexico, family says

By JOYCE LUPIANI, ZAC SUMMERS

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    ATLANTA (WGCL) — The body of a missing Gwinnett County school teacher has been found, according to her family.

The brother of Alexandra Morales, 24 of Lawrenceville, told CBS46 his sister’s body was found in Mexico on Tuesday. She was last seen on Oct. 30, after attending a concert in Zapopan, Mexico, near Guadalajara. The circumstances of her death are still unknown.

Morales went on leave from her teaching job at Benefield Elementary School in late October. Maria Palacios, a parent at the school, can’t get over the loss of her daughter’s first grade teacher.

“My heart sank,” she said. “She was so natural at it and the kids loved her. They had so much fun.”

Palacios said sharing the news with her 6-year-old daughter was difficult.

“Before I could get the words out, my daughter was crying already,” she said. “I had to respond, explaining what it means to not come back, that Ms. Morales was not coming back.”

Palacios said her daughter was fond of Morales because she was the first bilingual teacher she had. Spanish is her daughter’s first language. “So, to have a Latina bilingual teacher was really important to her,” Palacios explained. “She was the first teacher she identified with personally, and it was the first teacher my daughter said, ‘I want to be a teacher, like Ms. Morales.’”

Morales graduated from Georgia State University in 2019, according to her social media pages. Palacios said Morales was always cheerful in the classroom, attentive and extremely patient. A life and budding career tragically cut short.

“I just hope her family knows how inspirational and impactful she was to her students,” Palacios said. “I don’t know if there’s a lot of reassurance you can have in these times but to know she’s left an impact in kids’ lives such as mine, I just don’t know if we can ever repay her family for that.”

The principal at Benefield Elementary sent the following letter to the parents/guardians and students earlier on Tuesday:

Greetings Parents/Guardians of Students in Ms. Morales’ Class,

I am writing to you to share some troubling news we have received regarding your child’s 1st grade teacher, Ms. Alexandra Morales. As your child may have shared there has been a substitute in the class this past week. Ms. Morales had taken personal leave and we had planned for her absence. However, she did not return late last week as planned. We have been notified by her family that police are investigating her disappearance from her last known location in Guadalajara, Mexico. As this is an active police investigation and does not involve our school, I do not have additional details to share.

I wanted to provide you with this information so that you are prepared to answer questions from your child should her absence continue. At this time, we have a substitute teacher covering Ms. Morales’ class. I will continue to keep you apprised of information related to the class and have asked our other 1st grade teachers to lend their support to the substitute while Ms. Morales is away.

Thank you for your support of our students and staff during this difficult time. I ask that you please keep Ms. Morales and her family in your thoughts and prayers, with hopes that she safely returns home.

Sincerely,

Shonda Gipson-Stevens

Principal

CBS46 reached out to Mexican authorities and the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in the area for more details but did not receive a response as of Tuesday evening.

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