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SWISD prepares for new school year without beloved teacher

Vanessa Puente, 38, killed by hit- and-run driver Aug. 2

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Children sang and danced on stage, giving Southwest Independent School District teachers a rousing welcome ahead of Monday’s first day of class. 

But the preparation for the new school year was missing one of the district’s beloved teachers, Vanessa Puente.

Puente, 38, was killed Aug. 2 by a hit-and-run driver in an older model dark SUV that sustained front-end damage.

Despite numerous tips and a $5,000 reward, there has been no arrest yet.

“We did share a moment of silence and respect and remembrance for Vanessa,” said Lloyd Verstuyft, Southwest ISD superintendent.

Her presence was felt as inspiration for those at Wednesday’s teacher convocation at Southwest High School.

Verstuyft said the popular art teacher “was all about kids and Vanessa was all about preparing kids for the future.”

Amanda Balaria, the high school band teacher, said, “She would want everybody to continue with the laughter and make every single day fun in your classroom.”

Balaria said she is urging students to remember the good times and what they learned from Puente.

“Reflect on that and just make sure you’re paying attention in class and you make the best of everything like she would,” Balaria said.

The district superintendent said, “We remember her. We thank her. She always will be Southwest to us and in her name, we move forward.”