Principal Kathleen Hwang cherished the quiet moments she shared with her Loudoun County elementary school students and an open book. Each year, she sat down with every child in her office at Sanders Corner Elementary to take part in a literacy program she helped start: “I Read to the Principal.”
“The students loved it. They loved it,” said Beth Cipriano, assistant principal of the school in Ashburn. “I want to continue that in her honor.”
Hwang, 60, was killed Wednesday afternoon while walking near her home in Sterling. According to Liz Mills, a spokeswoman for the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, she was hit by a Dodge Durango about 3:15 p.m.
Hwang was not in a crosswalk and was wearing headphones, Mills said. The 18-year-old driver was not speeding and alcohol was not a factor in the crash, Mills said. Hwang died at the scene.
The investigation is continuing, but it does not appear that the driver will face charges, Mills said. Hwang apparently “did not see the SUV approaching,” she added.
Crisis counselors will be at the school when it reopens Monday, according to a statement issued by the Loudoun public school system.
“This is a sad time in the life of this vibrant school, and we are grateful for the years of outstanding leadership given to Sanders Corner by Mrs. Hwang,” the statement read.
Hwang was a middle school math teacher and principal in Virginia Beach for 24 years before moving to the area in 2005 to become principal at Sanders Corner. She was scheduled to retire at the end of this school year.
Cipriano said that Hwang arrived at school every morning at 5:30, “dressed to the nines. She was a very put-together lady.”
Bob Wright, president of the Sanders Corner Parent Teacher Association, said that Hwang “enjoyed her job and loved working with kids.”
Wright said that Hwang could be seen each day at drop-off, greeting students as they walked into the building.
“Even in 30-degree weather, she’d be bundled up and making sure to welcome kids,” said Wright, the father of a fourth-grader. “I always felt my daughter was in good hands.”
Jennifer Cramer, vice president of the Sanders Corner PTA, said that despite an enrollment exceeding 625 children, Hwang knew every student’s name and face.
“She was the pillar of the community,” Cramer said.
Cipriano said that Hwang was best known for her reading program, for which she was honored by the Greater Washington Reading Council. Working with local businesses, Hwang helped purchase books for the students and vastly expanded the school’s library.
“She was my mentor,” Cipriano said. “She helped build me into a leader.”
Mary Collins, whose 13-year-old son attended Sanders Corner, described Hwang as a dedicated, kind and approachable educator — in short, she said, the “perfect principal.”
“She was very impressive to me,” Collins said. “She waited by the door every single morning for the kids when they came to school. She also knew the name of every parent.”
Hwang was married and had a grown daughter and two grandsons. She had left school Wednesday to meet them for the Thanksgiving holiday, Collins said.