Westridge Dean Dies After Contracting COVID-19

Carol van Zalingen

Carol van Zalingen, Westridge’s Lower and Middle School dean of student support, died on Tuesday morning, April 14, from complications related to COVID–19. She passed away just after 4 a.m. at Huntington Memorial Hospital, Westridge officials said.
According to the school, van Zalingen joined Westridge in 2008 as the 8th-grade English teacher and in 2015 transitioned to the role of dean of Lower and Middle School student support.
“This latter role combined her exquisite talent as an educator and her seemingly bottomless capacity for empathy and caring,” a Westridge statement said. “In the classroom she was known to connect in a very special way with each of her students. Her colleagues described her as ‘a safe space for students and adults.’ She was known as gentle and wise, always reaching out to help others in a supportive and non-judgmental manner. She never wanted a light shined in her direction, but her ability to listen, be present, and hold time and space for students and friends was uncanny. And Carol was a master at helping girls progress along a path to being independent learners and finding and following a positive personal narrative.
“Over the years, Westridge Upper School students consistently cited Carol as one of the faculty members who made a significant impact on their lives. She indeed changed lives and made a mark on our hearts.”
Before moving to the United States, van Zalingen was born and lived in Europe, and was a “huge animal lover” with two dogs, according to the school. Prior to arriving at Westridge, she taught 8th-grade language arts in Alabama and 7th-grade language arts in Ohio. She held a bachelor’s in English and anthropology from Rice University and a master’s in education from the University of Montevallo. She was also a gifted young adult novelist with a passion for writing intelligent young heroines coming into their own. Her two books, Chiron’s Descent and the sequel Crossing Charon (a paranormal romance series), can be read on Swoonreads.com.
“When we are able to return to campus, we will commemorate Carol and the deep impact she made on our community,” the Westridge statement said.

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