Police and firefighters step in to teach so school staff can attend teacher's funeral

A group of Arkansas police and firefighters went far beyond the call of duty, stepping in to teach classes for a day at a middle school where a teacher suddenly passed away.

The Greenwood Police Department and Fire Department officers and firefighters took over so that school employees could attend the funeral of Jennifer Nelms.

Greenwood Fire Chief Stewart Bryan said, “Ms. Nelms was a supporter of the fire and police department. She’s been a supporter of us for many years. Now that the school’s in need, we wanted to help the school out. We wanted to make sure all the teachers were available to attend the funeral.”

Nelms, a 32-year-old paraprofessional in a fifth-grade classroom at East Hills Middle School, died Saturday from complications associated with Lupus.

Nelms was not feeling well at work Friday and left early.

Karen Benjamin, who worked with Nelms, said, “She thought, ‘I’m going to go home. I’m going to sleep. I’m going to clean my house, and I’ll see you Monday morning.’ So, that’s what she said Friday when she left.”

Co-workers say Nelms was diagnosed with lupus, an autoimmune disease, about two years ago.

About 15 Greenwood officers as well as firefighters subbed for teachers so Nelms' co-workers could mourn her and celebrate her life.

Greenwood Police Chief William Dawson said, “It’s certainly an honor to be in the class that she taught in… She was a great person… obviously loved by a lot of people and students, and she will be greatly missed.”

East Hills Middle School provided lunch to all of the police officers and firefighters, as well as staff members when they returned from the funeral services.

Nelms leaves behind a husband and two sons.