By Tamas Mondovics

There is no shortage of tears, feelings of emptiness and a sense of tremendous loss as teachers, students as well as parents and the community continue to mourn the loss of Riverview High School drama director, Daron Hawkins, who died last month after a battle with pneumonia. He was 38.

“It took us all by surprise and hit every one of us hard,” said Riverview High School chorus director, Elizabeth Stewart, holding back tears as she spoke of her colleague. “The deep feeling of loss is felt not only within the walls of our school but the entire community,” Stewart added. “We have lost a brilliant teacher who has impacted the lives of so many students. He will be greatly missed.”

Hawkins was the only drama teacher at RVHS since the school opened its doors in 1998 and is said to have produced and directed dozens of shows over the years. “He was a creative genius,” said RVHS principal, Bob Heilmann, adding that thanks to Hawkins’  ability to make students truly believe in themselves, earned him Riverview’s teacher of the year. Heilmann emphasized the countless terrific shows Hawkins has created for the school and for the enjoyment of the community like Evita, Chicago, Les Miserable, The Sound of Music, High School Musical, Cinderella, Cabaret, Metamorphosis, Gypsy and Into the Woods, just to name a few.

Hawkins was reportedly known to involve students, faculty, and the community in many of his projects and was also the State Thespian Director for Florida.  “His legacy will live on through the many students he taught,” Heilmann said.  “He instilled in his students confidence and had talented students that were able to showcase their skills, but he also had students with little or no talent and he would find parts that they could gain confidence and hold on that for life.”

A graduate of East Bay High School, Hawkins earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of South Florida (1997), and a Master in Arts degree from New York University (2006).

Hawkins also served on the Florida State Thespian Board of Directors, founded a community service project of the Riverview High School Theater Department that has been known as the Riverview Little Theater. “He always had a way of making magic happen,” Stewart said during an interview as students celebrated Hawkins life by wearing promotional theater T-shirts.

The school is now making arrangements for a tribute to Hawkins.

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