Anger grows as teacher struggles to recover

Anger grows as teacher struggles to recover »Play Video
Joseph Skillings
SEATTLE -- Anger is brewing over the beating of a school teacher who was knocked unconscious while trying to help a woman in need.

On Thursday parents and friends of Joseph Skillings called for police to intensify their search for his attacker.

Skillings, a teacher at Adams Elementary, called 911 on Sunday night to report a man was harrassing a woman at a Capitol Hill bus stop. While he was making the call, the man punched him in the side of the head.

Skillings was knocked backwards and hit his head on the cement sidewalk, leaving him unconscious and bleeding. Police said Skillings had a seizure after being hit.

Teachers at Skillings' school are angry that police still haven't found the attacker. And parents of the school's students say they're at a loss as to what to tell their kids.

"It's really hard because you want to protect them," said Pamela Akers, a mother. "I also want them to know they have to be careful out there."

"It's just sickening," said Kathleen Robel, who works with Skillings at Adams, an arts-integrated school in Ballard. "He doesn't have a lot of family around. We are his family here."

Skillings is listed in serious condition in the intensive care unit at Harborview Medical Center, and doctors say he'll likely need physical and speech therapy if he recovers.

The award-winning teacher has worked at Adams Elementary for more than 15 years, but his second and third grade students don't know exactly how badly he was injured.

"We talked to the class and we let them know he had been injured, but that he's receiving really good care," said Principal Anne Johnson.

Robel described Skillings as an "A-1 teacher."

"He's adored by the parents and the kids," she said. "This school is at a loss because they're going to lose him as a teacher for this year."

Thalia Pearce, a volunteer aide in Skillings' class where her son is also a student, says Skilings is much more than just another teacher.

"I mean he really did teach them about life," she said. "It's important to him to give them more than just the basics. He really wanted his students to have a well-rounded education and that includes all of the arts."

Pearce was to meet with him Monday to get started on this year's production, a Mid Summer Night's Dream, so now she is working with the substitute teacher and other parents to make sure it gets done.

"That's my greatest hope right now, looking forward to this production that he will be here to see it," she said.

The woman who was being harassed told police she did not know the man who was bothering her but recognized him from the neighborhood.

Friends are taking care of Skillings' home and dog while he's in the hospital.

Skillings' students and their parents have been posting warm messages on a Web site dedicated to his recovery.