Cat food and doggie treats were piled high in a corner. Multi-colored leaflets with drawings of dragonflies on their covers were placed on each chair. And students, teachers and even the school principal did the chicken dance in honor of Dana L. Andrews, a beloved Fauquier County teacher and DJ at M.M. Pierce Elementary School's annual Halloween Hop.
"She really did a special job of getting us on our feet moving and grooving," said Betty Putnam, principal of the Remington school, before leading dozens in the coordinated clapping, wing-flapping and wriggling of the children's group dance at a memorial service Friday for Andrews.
Andrews, 33, who went by "Dayna" since middle school, was killed July 28 in a traffic accident in Leesburg. After five years of teaching fifth grade at Pierce, she was preparing to transfer to Arcola Elementary School in Aldie next month.
Police said Andrews, who was driving a Toyota RAV4, was struck by a Chevrolet that ran a red light at Sycolin Road and the Route 15 Bypass. Andrews, who was not wearing a seat belt, was partially thrown from her SUV and died at the scene. David W. Brangard, 38, of Leesburg has been charged with involuntary manslaughter.
"Her students trusted her because they knew she really cared about them," said Mary Smith, who taught with Andrews at Mary Walter Elementary School in Bealeton several years ago. "Dayna knew the most important thing to do was to get to know the person first."
Andrews, who lived in Haymarket, was born in Leesburg. She graduated from Loudoun County High School and Radford University, and was studying for a master's in administration at Shenandoah University that would further her goal of becoming a school principal.
She loved animals, particularly her yellow Labrador Skye, which is why mourners brought donations to the service for the Fauquier SPCA, where Andrews had volunteered.
During the service at Pierce Elementary, Putnam read a poem about Andrews written by her fellow teachers. A slide show with a voiceover by former students showed her painting children's faces and gearing up to compete with the Andrews Leaping Llamas, a nickname for her homeroom's field day team.
"You were like a big sister to me," said the recorded voice of one student. "I could trust you and tell you my secrets."
Afterward, everyone gathered outside the school building to watch Andrews's brother Mark, 32, and niece Olivia Jane, 6, plant a pear tree in her honor.
"They were inseparable," Mark Andrews said of his sister and daughter, who would often join Andrews at special events and carnivals at Pierce. Andrews was also survived by another brother, Daniel, and her parents, Ronnie and Pati Mary Andrews.
One of Andrews's former pupils, 12-year-old Rebecca David, said Andrews always paid attention to every single student in the classroom. For example, when the class was writing essays to practice for the statewide Standards of Learning exams, Andrews would summon each one to her desk for individual instruction.
"She helped us with spelling, grammar and to not have our sentences go on too long," said David, a rising seventh-grader at Taylor Middle School in Warrenton.
Andrews's favorite subject was science, and she had lobbied the school to create an outdoor "laboratory" in the school's courtyard where students could study horticulture and insects and conduct experiments to demonstrate basic principles of science.
The project, to be built by a local high school student, will include hardwood benches and a podium, a brick walkway leading from the school to the lab and a plaque in honor of Andrews.
Donations to the project can be sent to St. James' Episcopal Church, 14 Cornwall St., Leesburg, Va., 20176. Dayna Andrews's name should be in the memo line of checks.
Ellen Lemmer, of Remington, whose daughter Jenna, 12, was in Andrews's class, remembered participating in science projects to which parents were invited. "She had the right balance of fun and discipline, and she made the children want to learn," said Lemmer, who found herself with a class making maps out of cookie dough and placing candy and marshmallows as landmarks.
Lemmer, who also knew Andrews from working as a school bus driver, also smiled at the memory of Andrews heading off to field trips with pigtails, cutoffs -- and every bit as much energy as her students.