Rhoades Elementary mourns loss of teacher who died in cycling crash

Erika Wells
Wayne Township Teacher Remembered 5pm
Kindergarten teacher killed
Kindergarten teacher killed in crash

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - Teachers and faculty at Rhoades Elementary School in Wayne Township are grieving the loss of a beloved colleague Thursday.

Erika Wells, a kindergarten teacher, was struck and killed while riding her bike along SR 37 Wednesday. Wells is being remembered as an exceptionally kind and caring teacher who touched a lot of lives during her 15 years with the district.

"Erika was one of those people who always had a smile on her face, always made people around her feel great. She had a big, caring heart not just for her students but for the staff and Rhoades Elementary family," Wayne Township Supt. Jeffrey Butts said.

Like Erika, Natalie Brenneman also taught kindergarten at Rhoades for several years. She said her heart breaks for Erika's young students.

"I can't imagine going back into that classroom without her. The next teacher will have big shoes to fill," Brenneman said.

She said Erika was "just a kind and gentle soul."

When Brenneman's newborn son Evan was diagnosed with a rare disease earlier this year, Erika stepped up immediately.

"We were selling bracelets for my son and she messaged me right away and said I want to get involved," Brenneman said.

And, she did.

"We had two fundraiser walks this year and she was at both," Brenneman said. "She had a really big heart."

Erika also left a strong impression on former students, including Kyrstyn Dyson, now a junior at Decatur Central.

"She was just so sweet, caring and kind. She put kids before herself," Dyson said. "She just told me to always believe in myself."

Erika was well-known within the running and cycling community, having done many triathlons and marathons. She was planning to do the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon next month, as part of a fundraiser for the school.

She had also begun an after-school program called "Girls on the Run," to get them active. Some of those students are planning to do the Monumental 5K race, now in their teacher's memory.

The school district is on a two-week break, which began Monday. Staff and counselors have begun reaching out to students and their families to break the news and offer assistance.

Butts said Erika's death "left a huge hole for us and a hole we'll have to work hard to fill, but the legacy she's left...will carry on for many years to come."

Funeral services

Visitation for Erika Wells will be held at Shiloh Wesley Chapel in Spencer from 2-6 p.m. on Saturday, October 15, then at 1 p.m. Sunday until funeral services commence at 2 p.m. Wells will be buried at Riverside Cemetery.

A memorial service will be held at Mt. Pleasant Christian Church of Greenwood on Saturday, November 12. Visitation at the memorial will be held from 1-2 p.m., with the service to follow.