Social studies teacher Shane Gilbert stamps Alexus Newton’s hand at an Auburn Middle School fundraiser this year. Sun Journal file photo

AUBURN — The Auburn Middle School community is grieving the death of a beloved social studies teacher.

Auburn Middle School teacher Shane Gilbert speaks at a Auburn School Committee meeting in 2016. Sun Journal file photo

Shane Gilbert, 52, died over the weekend, Superintendent Katy Grondin said.

Students and faculty were told Monday morning. The school department announced the loss on its Facebook page.

“It’s a tough day here at the Auburn Middle School,” Principal Robert Griffin said.

Gilbert loved teaching and was someone who Griffin looked forward to seeing every morning, he said.

The principal described Gilbert as “a quirky, interesting guy who makes connections with kids. He is going to be very, very missed by many students and the entire staff here at the middle school.”

In a letter to parents, Griffin said Gilbert died at home of apparent natural causes.

Teacher Shane Gilbert holds a plaque from the Auburn School Department’s System Drop Out Prevention Committee commending him for making students feel successful and valued. Auburn School Department photo

When he did not show up at school Monday morning, the staff grew concerned “because this is not him,” Grondin said. Gilbert never missed school, she said.

“The school was his second home,” she said

A fellow staff member went to the house Monday morning and called police when Gilbert did not come to the door, Auburn Deputy Chief of Police Timothy Cougle said.

It’s not clear when Gilbert died, but it had been at least several hours, Cougle said.

Grondin said she was aware he had some medical issues, but his death was not expected.

“We’re very sad,” she said.

Gilbert was a tireless advocate for students and teachers, Griffin said. Gilbert served as president of the teachers union, the Auburn Education Association. He was involved with many school activities, often fundraising for other teachers and families who needed help. In January, Gilbert was involved in “Crazy Hat Day” fundraising for the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society in honor of science teacher Laurie Jean Sproul Marcotte who died from cancer.

Every year Gilbert took students on a trip to see history and current events unfold in Washington, D.C.

Every summer he traveled to foreign lands and brought back personal stories, slides and photos of different cultures to share with his students. This year he was planning to go to Australia.

“It is a rare person who can make geography interesting,” but Gilbert did, Griffin said. He traveled to make him a better teacher. “He brings the culture to life. That is what middle school students need, and he got that.”

Griffin said Gilbert “worked really hard with students. He gave up prep time after school every day to work with kids. He was great at celebrating kids’ success. He was a real asset to Auburn.”

Gilbert had taught at the middle school for 12 years, and was on the “Sugarloaf” team of teachers and students.

Former student Kaatiiee Lynn, 24, said she was in one of Gilbert’s classes. In a Facebook message, she described him as a fun, outgoing teacher who was always there for his students. When he saw students in the hall, he’d ask how they were doing, “which I’m sure a lot of students appreciated, especially if you were having a bad day,” Lynn said.

Guidance counselors and extra support staff were at the middle school Monday to help students and teachers struggling with grief, Grondin said. Edward Little High School teachers because seniors graduated Saturday went to the middle school to fill in for teachers “who need a moment and need to step out” of their class.

While everyone was grieving, Grondin said it was heartwarming to see everyone helping “and  keep things moving through the day.”

Gilbert has family in Aroostook County, Grondin said.