A popular 31-year-old photography teacher was found hanging inside an Orange County high school classroom by students as they arrived to school on Monday, police said.
The woman, identified by police as Jillian Jacobson, was found hanging from the ceiling at El Dorado High School in Placentia.
"The preliminary investigation indicates it was a suicide," said Placentia police Lt. Eric Point.
The teacher's husband was notified and grief counselors were summoned to the campus. Afternoon classes were canceled.
Officials said that two students had gone to the teacher's classroom but found the door locked.
The students asked another teacher to let them in the classroom, where they found the photography instructor. Together they lowered the teacher to the floor, authorities said.
Frank Leon, a 16-year-old student at El Dorado, said he saw students lined up outside Jacobson's classroom as he headed to his own class.
Sitting in class, Leon said he could hear screams when his teacher left to unlock Jacobson's classroom.
Leon said he heard "screaming, crying. It freaked the hell out of me."
He said he could hear his teacher screaming, "Oh my God, oh my God!"
Paramedics tried to revive the woman with CPR, but she was pronounced dead in the classroom, Point said.
"It's sad for the students and fellow teachers who witnessed that," said Capt. Steve Concialdi of the Orange County Fire Authority.
Students were released from school at 11 a.m., said Kevin Lee, assistant superintendent of personnel at Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District. Grief counselors would be at the school "as long as needed," Lee said.
By noon, the campus had largely emptied, aside from a cluster of news vans and several police officers who patrolled the campus.
Paul Bonello, who arrived to pick up his daughter, said the campus had had its share of sorrow in the last year. A 16-year-old junior was killed last March when he was hit by a vehicle while skateboarding.
"I know the school's going through a lot of sorrow and loss."
Students shared their grief on Twitter on Monday.
"RIP Mrs jacobson. Hard to say goodbye to a great friend, family, and staff member…" Liz Madrigal tweeted. Another person tweeted that Jacobson "really brightened up everyone's day."
According to the Cal State Fullerton website, Jacobson was also a teacher at the school's art summer camp for kids. She taught ceramics, and black-and-white and digital photography.
Jacobson's bio on the university website said her goal every summer was "to give campers an experience they will always remember, and to send them home with artwork they will be proud of for years to come."
Leon said Jacobson was a popular teacher with a reputation for being upbeat.
"I always heard she was a really fun teacher, really happy."