HAM LAKE, Minn. (WCCO) — A second grade Isanti teacher dedicated to her students for 31 years never made it her classroom Friday morning.

According to Anoka County deputies, 54-year-old Norene L. Callahan died in an early morning car crash on her way to her job at Isanti Primary School.

Authorities said Callahan was driving north along Lexington Avenue when she lost control of her Honda sedan and began to spin. It appears slick road conditions from freshly fallen snow in the morning were a factor in the crash.

Callahan crossed into the southbound lane of traffic and was struck by a Chevrolet pickup truck. The driver of the other vehicle was not injured, according to the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office.

Superintendent Bruce Novak described Callahan as a woman who cared more for others than herself in her 31 years with the district.

“I think that’s the part that people are really going to miss,” he said.

Jenni Strike, a special education teacher at Isanti Primary, says she remembers Callahan from when she was a student at the school.

“She always had a smile, she always had time to say hi to someone in the hallway. She remembered her students, talked about former students, upcoming students. She was a very lovely lady. Her kids would go up and give her hugs in the morning. They couldn’t wait to show her things,” said Strike.

Novak says the school district personally called the parents of her students, and many of the parents came to the school to take their kids home for the day. Social workers were also on hand for counseling, Novak said.

Sandra Williford volunteered in Callahan’s room and says the devastation goes even deeper. Callahan has a twin sister who also is a teacher in the district, at the Isanti Intermediate school.

“They would tag team back and forth, when she was gone, her sister would fill in. It was hard to tell the difference, but the students knew which one was which. And they are both super people, and I feel so bad for her right now,” said Williford.

The Anoka County medical examiner ruled Callahan died from multiple blunt force injuries suffered in the crash.

Callahan leaves behind her husband and two adult children.

“Norene really epitomizes what a teacher is all about, heart and caring for children,” said Novak. “I use the analogy often that we throw that pebble into the water, and the ripples spread on forever. Maureen has thrown a lot of pebbles into the water, and the ripples are still spreading out.”

Comments (14)
  1. Emily says:

    What a tragic loss – my prayers go out to the Callahan family and all of “Mrs. Callahan’s” students and coworkers at Isanti Primary School. Good bless.

  2. Abbey says:

    I am so devastated to hear this! Two of my kids have had Noreen and my daughter has her sister this year. She was an awesome teacher and an amazing human being who will be greatly missed. Our hearts and prayers are with them all!

  3. Tristine Robinson says:

    Chris R.
    I taught many years with Norene. She was a wonderful teacher, coworker, friend, mother, sister and daughter.
    My thoughts and prayers are with all who knew and loved her.

  4. Pate says:

    My condolences to her family,friends,co-workers and students.What a terrible loss.

  5. Michele says:

    This broke my heart. I didn’t know her, but look at her face! Everything that she is, is in that face! The world is an emptier place.

  6. Bob says:

    So often when tragedies happen, someone says, “that could happen to anyone” In this case it is really true. If that pickup had not been coming at just that point in time and struck her she would probably been all right and even made it to school that day. Most people living in MN will spin out on slick roads sooner or later. Most of the time nothing terrible happens. This story is a reminder to all of us that each time we say good bye to our loved ones it might be the last time. Hold them close.

  7. Pam says:

    My children are grown now (26 and 29), but they both had Mrs. Callahan in the second grade. Of all the teachers they had, I remember her! She had a passion for teaching and the children loved her. She will be sorely missed!

  8. Lieave those kids alone says:

    I hope a pack of “grief counselors” don’t infest the school and inflict their views on the children that they should be dependent and wallow in self pity.

    They would just be making a tragedy worse.

  9. Terrible says:

    Very sad, I can’t imagine the family and her class of kids. I wonder if her car had stability control. This same scenario happened in my family ending in bad rollover and had the car had stability control, it would have never occurred. We won’t own a car with out that feature any longer.

  10. JQ Public says:

    From her smile and twinkle in her eye it is clear she was a sweet, loving and caring person. Prayers and best wishes to her family and cherished memories to those who had the pleasure of knowing her.

  11. Tracy says:

    My son Kelston was in her class…she made 2nd grade a wonderful year for him! She was a stand out teacher that has had a lasting impression on him. For his HS graduation she one of the teachers we invited to join us in the celebration. When you envision a caring and insightful teacher to guide your young child, Norene is that teacher. This is so incredibly sad and our heart goes out to her family.

  12. Kristin says:

    What a sad day for our small town of Isanti. Being a Graduate of Camrbidge-Isanti High School and a student of Isanti Elementary so many years ago it breaks my heart to hear of this terrible loss. She was a wonderful teacher and role model. The world has lost an amazing woman. May the hearts of her family, friends, students, former students and co-workers be filled with God’s peace.

  13. Nancy Roberts says:

    Thank you everyone for your kind comments. It helps ease the hurt to hear people’s memories of her. From: Nancy (her twin sister).

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