El Paso mourns with Austin after local educator dies in a flash flood hiking incident


EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — An El Paso woman living in Austin was home visiting family when an afternoon hike took a turn for the worst.

El Paso Police confirmed Christina Garcia-Mata was killed after she was swept away while hiking during El Paso’s Monday flash floods. El Paso Fire Department officials said crews responded to a missing hiker call near the Franklin Mountains, near the Jan Sumrall Memorial Trailhead in West El Paso near Thunderbird Drive.

On Tuesday, authorities confirmed Garcia-Mata died from injuries. She was 39-years-old.

An El Paso native, Garcia-Mata lived in Austin, Texas where she was an educator for 15 years. She graduated from UTEP and taught AVID at Akins Early College High School in Austin.

Former students and colleagues shared stories and memories of their beloved teacher.

“She was passionate about what she did, she cared about our personal success,” former student Miguel Garcia Zuniga said. “She was what every teacher should look up to be.”

Zuniga said he is now in his third year of college at U-Mass Boston. He said he often thinks to how he got there with Garcia-Mata as his teacher.

Courtesy Miguel Garcia Zuniga

“I was hoping to send her out a letter when I graduate but things happen,” Zuniga said. “People from El Paso, just like how you all lost some amazing person, we did too.”

Greg Izor, a former colleague of Garcia-Mata’s said she knew how to work with high school students and helped them find success.

“She could always relate to students very openly and honestly with them without confusing the line of who’s the teacher and who is the student, she really had a gift for that,” Izor said.

El Pasoan Jesus Valles had something extra special in common with his former colleague, Garcia-Mata. He met her when he started teaching at Akins in Austin to soon discover she was from El Paso as well.

“Meeting Christy at Akins High School was one of the best things that happened because it was being in a new place but being helped by someone who felt just like home,” Valles said.

According to a post on the Akins ECHS website, Garcia-Mata won the Teacher of the Year award in 2017-18. Students, friends and loved ones took to social media to share tributes to Garcia-Mata.

Courtesy Diego

“The fact that you know these two huge cities are mourning her today speaks a lot to the legacy of kindness that she left behind,” Valles said.

In a statement, AISD Superintendent Dr. Stephanie Elizalde said:

We are shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of a member of our Austin ISD family. Christina Garcia-Mata was a dedicated and passionate educator who worked endlessly for her students for 15 years. Her colleagues knew her as a bright, warm presence who could lift their spirits with a smile and a story. We send our heartfelt condolences to her family and every life that she touched.

Dr. Stephanie Elizalde, Austin ISD Superintendent

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