Columbia County, GA (WJBF)- Family and friends spent the day saying farewell to a Columbia County teacher who died of COVID-19.

Last week, Columbia County was rocked by the news that one of their beloved teachers had died from the virus. A college friend and former coworker tells me being a teacher was her passion.

“So Jennifer and I went to college together. We graduated in 2005 and when we graduated school, we both went to work in Warren County,” said Allison Davis. “And I can remember, the first year of teaching, Jennifer’s heart for kids just really came through and shone through.”

Jennifer Watkins was an educator at South Columbia Elementary School. She started her career as an Early Childhood teacher in Warren County, later becoming a Resource teacher at Baker Place Elementary. Davis later joined her there and thought she hadn’t changed.

Jennifer Watkins. Photo courtesy of family.

“She still has that huge heart. That enthusiasm for learning. That love for kids. She had become even more of a, what I want to call, an outrageous educator. Just to go the extra mile to get her kids engaged.”

Davis said Watkins had a bubbly personality that was infectious. She always had a kind word for co-workers and she adored her students.

Jennifer Watkins. Photo courtesy of family.

“But she referred to her students as ‘my kids.’ Those were ‘one of mine.’ and she kept in touch with them all the way through graduation,” smiled Davis.

Johnny Cogburn is a 5th grader and was one of Watkins’s kids. His mother, Diana Cogburn, said Watkins was a special teacher who had a huge impact on her son.

“She was just so bubbly and the things that she brought to the table, like she really cared about everybody,” said Diana. “Like, I know, I can tell that she loved him just as much as I do.”

Johnny said he loved Watkins and trusted her too. His mother said the death of her son’s teacher has been hard on him.

Watkins’ classroom door. Photo Courtesy of family.

“I’m so sad when I heard about Mrs. Watkins’s death. Like, I feel like I was so heartbroken when she passed away,” Johnny told NewsChannel 6.

Diana said Columbia County has lost an irreplaceable educator.

“She had a huge heart and she loved all her students and I know she loved her job and she was amazing at what she did. And she’s going to be greatly missed. The school district really lost a great teacher when they lost Mrs. Watkins,” said Diana.

Davis said that, as much as she loved her job and students, she was completely devoted to her family.

Jennifer Watkins. Photo courtesy of family.

“That was her number one purpose in life, was her son Sadler. Spending time with him and her husband, Kevin, and her parents and her sister.”

Watkins’ family tells us “Jennifer was a phenomenal mom, wife, daughter, and sister who loved her family, her students, the beach, and camping. She was an avid fan of the Georgia Bulldogs, Atlanta Falcons, and the Atlanta Braves. She was also a huge fan of music (especially Lady Gaga), cooking, and reading. She will be missed beyond words. We are so thankful and overwhelmed with outpouring of love of support from so many people who knew Jennifer. We knew she was a force, but we didn’t realize the impact she had made on so many.”

Davis got emotional saying one of Watkins’s most wonderful qualities was her kindness. She said Watkins once remembered that she liked chocolate fondue and surprised her with it at work on her birthday.

“Because that’s the kind of person she was. She was listening for the little things that could help make you feel special. And it’s just those little things that made her a special person,” said Davis.