Somber start of school year for Proctor following teacher's shooting death

By JOLEEN FERRIS

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Back to school is an exciting time of new beginnings; the writing of a new chapter, but the story of a violent death is coloring the first day back at Utica's Proctor High School with shades of grief and sadness.

Thirty-year-old math teacher Catherine Koestner died of a single gunshot wound to the head in an Old Forge Motel room August 25. State Police aren't yet saying if it was a suicide or a homicide. In addition to back-to-school supply lists and first-day jitters, Proctor parents found themselves having to tackle the heavy topic of grief.

"I asked him if he knew her, if he was sad or whatever and he said he didn't know her but he'd seen her through the halls, whatever, he thought she was a nice lady," says parent Sarah Moore.

Student Austin O'Dell wasn't in any of Miss Koestner's classes. He only knew her in passing but many of his friends were in her math class.

"They loved her very much, no joke, they loved her. I'd seen her here and there. She was really a nice woman," says O'Dell.

Proctor Principal Steve Falchi says Catherine Koestner was an excellent teacher, loved by both students and faculty, many of whom are still feeling a sense of loss. The school has been offering on-site counselors since Koestner's death.

State Police aren't yet saying if Koestner's death was a suicide or homicide.

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