BRISTOL, Va. -

At Virginia High School, where shooting victim Kristin Palmer taught for years, people started to gather for a vigil to remember her life Thursday evening.

Students there tell us it's been very somber and that it's been one of the hardest weeks they've ever been through.

Students and staff are mourning the loss of a beloved teacher and friend, Kristin Palmer, who taught 10th grade English and drama at Virginia High School for 22 years.

Students there say she touched many lives.

"She was a tough lady. She was toughest woman I've ever met," said Daniel Rasnick.

"She was that second mom figure to us," Lexie McCoy said.

Virginia High principal Ronnie Collins tells us last Wednesday, Palmer came to him asking for time off because of a domestic situation at home. "She was out Thursday and Friday. She was supposed to come back to us on Tuesday morning," he said.

She never made it back to school after the tragic shooting that left her, her son, and her mother dead; her father was injured in the attack. The shooter, her former husband Kevin Palmer, turned the gun on himself at the scene.

"It's hard to get away from the thought of her. Every single person that I'm friends with has been affected by her at some point," said student Matthew Kilby.

The stage where Palmer taught students drama is full of flowers, letters, and pictures. "It's been the hardest week we've ever gone through," Daniel Rasnick said. "She was more than a teacher. Above all, she was my friend."

Students tell us despite the abuse Palmer went through for years at home, she always put on a smile for the students and showed them love.

"She took kids in that didn't really have any friends and made them something, gave them something to hope for and look forward to," Matthew Kilby said.

"She was the person that would give you the shirt off her back," Lexie McCoy said. "She cared so much about all her students and her faculty, and she showed it."

Palmer and the drama club were working on a new play, one she was especially proud of -- "The Lion King." "We're still going to put it on for her," Daniel Rasnick said.

The students tell us they know her spirit will be with them on stage when they perform. "I know she's going to be watching over us when we put on the production," Lexie McCoy said.

Principal Ronnie Collins says Palmer also volunteered to teach homebound students who couldn't come to school, as well as summer school in her free time.

Vigils planned

A vigil for Kristin Palmer is set to begin at 6:30 Thursday. Principal Collins tells us they have no set service plans, they are just coming together to grieve, share memories, and lean on each other.

VEA statement

The Virginia Education Association has released a statement concerning Kristin Palmer, sending condolences to her family and friends. The statement read, in part: "Ms. Palmer was dedicated, passionate, and an expert career teacher in English and drama, known to be tough and challenging, but always there for students who needed her support."

Memorial services

Memorial services are set for Kristin and Griffin Palmer, along with Nancy Griffin.

Frost Funeral Home and the principal of Virginia High tell us visitation will be Friday, February 28 from 4 to 8 p.m. at Emory & Henry college in the Memorial Chapel. Private funerals will follow the visitation.