Former students of Pasco High mourn loss of beloved teacher, vow to continue his legacy

PASCO, Wash — Students, both current and former, and staff of Pasco High were shocked to learn one of their own tragically passed suddenly Wednesday morning.

Mark Hoover, 37, died Jan. 20 at a local hospital, leaving behind his wife and children. The cause of death was not immediately known.

The social studies teacher touched the hearts and lives of many students, who remember him as “caring, inspirational and one-of-a-kind.”

“He was a character. Something you’d see out of a movie or something like that,” said Justin Ochoa, a former student of Hoover’s.

Although Ochoa graduated in 2017, he still fondly remembers the times he spent with the teacher.

“He really made a difference in my life because every other teacher didn’t care this much,” Ochoa said.

One of Ochoa’s favorite memories was hanging out with Hoover during his lunch break and after school.

“Often times, the class discussion would last so long we would run of time so we would stay there at lunch, the whole hour, not even remembering to eat. Then he’d tell us to come back after school. So we’d come back after school, stay there for 30 minutes or an hour and keep the conversation going,” Ochoa said. “That’s the thing, he was such a good teacher that we didn’t want to leave. We didn’t want to stop learning.”

Another former student of Hoover’s, Aziel Barraza, echoed Ochoa’s sentiments, adding that he “was a legitimate teacher, like how a teacher should be.”

“With every student, he just wanted the best for them. He actually cared about everybody and he never expected anything in return,” Barraza said.

Barraza added that Hoover was “the only guy I’ve ever met that was really trying to change the world.”

“Hoover was really open minded. He was goal oriented, positive. and always hard working. He’s just cool because you could tell him anything,” Barraza said. “It didn’t matter how bad it was, he’s not going to judge.”

Ochoa agreed, saying that Hoover was different because “he spoke to his students like we were colleagues.”

“He wanted to know what we thought too and he wanted to learn something from us,” Ochoa said. “He wanted to see why we thought a certain way. I’ve never had any other teacher want to do that.”

Ochoa added that Hoover challenged his student’s thoughts and beliefs while encouraging them to look at the world differently.

“Hoover always said we are here to help others,” Ochoa said. “And he showed us that too. He told me he would often donate parts of his salary to nonprofits and just give it away. So he wouldn’t be receiving money he’d get from the school but he continued teaching purely for his love of his students.”

Ochoa said he and other students are planning a celebration to honor Hoover and continue his legacy.

“I couldn’t talk to him one last time. I think that was the worst thing. But he gave us enough knowledge, enough willpower and enough know how, to keep moving forward,” Ochoa said.

The Pasco School District released this statement to KAPP KVEW:

“We were very saddened to hear about the unexpected passing of Mark Hoover, who was a social studies teacher at Pasco High School. The District has made sure that extra counselors are available at Pasco High School this week to support students and staff members who have been impacted by Mr. Hoover’s death.”