Tributes pour in after beloved teacher suddenly dies behind his school desk

A much-loved religious studies teacher died shortly after he collapsed at his desk.

James Kiernan was at his desk at Shalom College in Bundaberg, in the Australian state of Queensland, when he collapsed.

Colleagues rushed to help the teacher, who had arrived at the college at approximately 7.30am local time on Tuesday.

But despite Mr Kiernan’s colleagues performing CPR on him prior to the arrival of the paramedics, the teacher could not be revived.

The college’s principal, Dan McMahon, confirmed the death of the father-of-three at 10.50am, by which time Mr Kiernan’s wife Peta had arrived to be by his side. 

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The teacher died from a heart attack, a Queensland Police Service spokesperson confirmed.

In the hours following Mr Kiernan’s death, friends and colleagues paid tribute to the father and husband, who died in his 50s.

The principal told local publication Courier Mail: “James loved his Catholic faith and lived it.

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“James has been a much-loved member of staff at Shalom since 2021 and would, perhaps, have taught more students here than the vast majority of teachers given that he had a full teaching load of Religious Education.”

Friend and colleague Dale O’Connell took to social media to honour the memory of the teacher.

He said: “James Kiernan was one of the most genuine blokes I have ever had the honour to call a mate and colleague. The world has lost one of the good guys.”

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St Edmund’s College, the school at which Mr Kiernan taught between 2008 and 2017, also took to social media to praise the father-of-three and express sympathy to his family.

Upon learning about the tragic news, a former pupil of the teacher honoured his work as they wrote on Facebook: “I was lucky enough to have this amazing teacher from Grade 8 to Grade 10.

“He was such an inspiration to work hard. I’ll never forget what he taught me.”

Shalom College is now offering counselling services to help students and staff cope with the death of Mr Kiernan.

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