MIDDLEBURY — Carl Ciemniewski, a well-liked and respected longtime physics and math teacher and football coach at Middlebury Union High School, died of an apparent heart attack he suffered on Saturday while attending a varsity boys’ lacrosse game.
Ciemniewski, according to witnesses, was found unconscious late Saturday afternoon near cars parked at the game, which was held at Middlebury College’s Alumni Stadium.
The MUHS athletic trainer and other MUHS personnel on the scene treated him immediately during the game, reportedly with the school’s defibrillator. College public safety personnel and Middlebury police also arrived as well as two Middlebury Regional EMS ambulances and crews. Those ambulances were still on the scene at 6 p.m. when the varsity game ended.
Ciemniewski was taken to Porter Hospital but did not survive.
As well as teaching, 55-year-old Ciemniewski — better known as Mr. C — spent years working with the MUHS football program, serving as the varsity offensive coordinator for former head coach Peter Brakeley. Both men stepped down from the varsity program several years ago and had been coaching the junior varsity team together.
Ciemniewski graduated from MUHS in 1977 and earned a bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Vermont in 1984.
In a 2006 interview with the Independent, Ciemniewski said that after studying mechanical engineering at UVM for two years, he decided to switch his major to Education “when I found that I enjoyed the (JV football) coaching I was doing with Vin Fucile. I enjoyed the interactions with students much more than the intense number crunching.”
He also said “(My students are) the most important factor to consider in all that I do as a teacher.”
MUHS Principal Bill Lawson said Ciemniewski was devoted to the young people with whom he came in contact every day.
“The point about him and his death is he died doing what he loved doing, which was being at a game supporting his students,” Lawson said. “That says it all about him — supporting his students.”
Lawson said the MUHS crisis team met Sunday afternoon to plan how to break the news to students and staff and help them process the information. A faculty meeting will be held at 8 a.m. on Monday.
On Sunday afternoon, the school sent out a recorded phone message from Lawson to all parents of MUHS students breaking the tragic news and pointing them to the MUHS website for a statement. Lawson’s message also referred to talking points for parents on how to talk with their sons and daughters about the death of a teacher.
Staff from the Counseling Service of Addison County will be at the school Monday to meet and talk with any students who wish to do so.
School administrators have asked two retired MUHS teachers who knew Ciemniewski well — Alison Dayton and Mary Jane Quesnel — to be at the school Monday to help students deal with the death of the well-liked teacher. Students will also have the opportunity to create a memory wall in Ciemniewski’s honor.
A full report and obituary will be published in the Thursday edition of the Independent.