Before he died in a car accident, Conner was really struggling to find his way in school, until entering Mrs. Meiners's class at Rochelle's Central Elementary.

On a Friday night in May, Abbey Ewald was driving in Ogle County when her car veered off the road and rolled over several times. Her 8-year-old son Conner was her only passenger. Abbey was rushed to the hospital with serious injuries, Conner was pronounced dead at the scene.

A few months after that tragic night, Abbey wrote a Teacher of the Week letter to us honoring Conner's 2nd-grade teacher. He'd just finished a big turn-around year in school, one which his mom was incredibly proud of as his previous school year had ended sooner than expected due to his behavior.

Congratulations to 97ZOK's Teacher of the Week

97ZOK Teacher of the Week-Candace Meiners Rochelle Elementary

Candace Meiners from Central Elementary School in Rochelle, Illinois.

Here is the nomination letter Abbey sent us:

I recently lost my son in a car accident back in May. My son Conner had the absolute worst year in 1st grade. He ended up missing the last week of school due to his actions and was kicked out of his daycare for said actions. We had an entire summer to help work through his anger/attitude.
Going into 2nd grade, we were all a little nervous about the previous year, and what this year was going to bring. Mrs. Meiners had known Conner from his 1st-grade class and let me know that it was in the past and we were going to make this year count. That is without a doubt an understatement. From the first few weeks, he started 2nd grade, everything had changed. The way he interacted with us, other students, and all around in general was just a happier person. Conner came home every day excited to tell us what he had accomplished and how helpful his teacher was. When he did have a bad day, she helped him get through it without singling him out and making him feel bad that he handled situations differently unlike his teachers before. When we lost Conner, she was the first person to reach out to us to let us know how amazing he was and how much she truly enjoyed watching him grow as a person in the short time they had been together. I'm not trying to use the death of my son to make this about me, but she truly is one of the best kindhearted people in this world and our kids deserve more teachers like her who want to help our children grow into the best people they can be.

When speaking about Conner during our on-air conversation with Mrs. Meiners, I asked if she had a favorite memory and she shared, "Conner was so incredibly smart and that was something that I knew from day one that I was going to have to work really hard to stay one step ahead of him. He was extremely witty he could have a conversation with anybody. And the thing about him is once he committed and he loved, he loved with his whole heart. Those were some of my favorite things about him."

97ZOK Teacher of the Week-Candace Meiners Rochelle Elementary
Get our free mobile app

As Teacher of the Week, Mrs. Meiners was surprised with a cake from Nothing Bundt Cakes and money to spend at WM Day Spa Salon.

If you would like to nominate your favorite teacher, click HERE.

20 Hidden Gem Spots from Across Illinois You Must Visit

Illinois is home to a plethora of hidden gems waiting to be explored. Parks, historic sites, roadside attractions, boutique hotels, and more. Go discover.

Gallery Credit: Steve Shannon

More From 97 ZOK