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Bronx school, community try to cope after beloved teacher is found dead at school from apparent overdose

FOXHURST, the Bronx — He was a beloved, veteran teacher, dedicated to educating and uplifting special needs students, according to colleagues and family members.

They're all in shock after Matthew Azimi, 36, was found dead Thursday evening in a bathroom where he worked, at P.S. X811. Drug paraphernalia was found near his body, law enforcement sources told PIX11 News. On Friday, the many people who knew him tried to cope with the loss.

"A lot of faces are sad" inside the school on Longfellow Avenue, said Annette Santiago, whose son is in 12th grade there. "They've been crying. They're talking" about the loss, Santiago said. "It's hit home. It's hit their home."

Staff members and families told PIX11 News that Azimi was a well known and respected member of the school's faculty.

"It is a big loss," said an 11th grade mother, who gave only her first name, Jennifer. "He was somebody who was hands on with the kids. He always gave them a positive vibe, at all times, so it's heartbreaking," she said.

Azimi was a father, and, people here said, a friend and a role model, who is now gone, to many people's surprise.

"It's terrible news," said Santiago. "Everybody has their situations going on. we don't really know their daily life."

Santiago said that the biggest reason that she was so surprised was that she didn't know about the alleged overdose death on campus until PIX11 News asked her about it a day after the death had occurred. She was among many parents who said that the school did not directly notify families about the tragedy.

For its part, the Department of Education issued a statement from Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina.

"This is deeply saddening," Farina's statement read, "and my heart goes out to the teacher's family and the school community. We will be providing grief counselors and ongoing resources to support students and staff during this difficult time.”

The city medical examiner's office will determine the cause of death.