msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 1/27/2011 5:53:41 PM ET 2011-01-27T22:53:41

A search continued Thursday for a Northern California teacher who disappeared after leaving a mysterious message on her classroom blackboard.

Students of Debra Schmitt told San Rafael police they found the message "Thank you everyone" but not their teacher when they showed up for her English class at Terra Linda High School on Jan. 20. Current and past students are turning to a Schmitt fan page on Facebook to appeal for her safe return.

Image: Debra Schmitt
Ross Police Department  /  AP
Debra Schmitt, 53, has been missing for a week.

Schmitt, 53, was last seen a day earlier in Ross, where she lives.

Police said there were no indications Schmitt had been kidnapped or attacked, and authorities found her car, identification and purse at her home.

    1. Hoffman withdrew $1,200 hours before death: sources

      Philip Seymour Hoffman withdrew a total of $1,200 from an ATM at a supermarket near his New York City apartment the night before he was found lifeless in his bathroom with a syringe still in his left arm, sources told NBC News.

    2. NYC mayor will skip St. Pat's parade over gay ban
    3. Indiana man back home 18 years after abduction
    4. 32 states in the path of another wild storm
    5. Judge vows quick ruling on Va. marriage ban

She left her school keys in her classroom, San Francisco Bay area NBC station KNTV reported.

Schmitt's cousin Linda Czarnik said the teacher, who has a son in eighth grade, was going through a divorce and had lost three close relatives in the past year, though it was unclear if those events were connected to her disappearance.

"We know it's been a sad time in our family," Czarnik told the San Francisco Chronicle. "It's a heavy burden — on all of us — but for her to hurt herself? I just can't see it."

Authorities searched the Phoenix Lake area near Ross and Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, which Schmitt told a friend she wanted to explore.

Public records showed that Schmitt's husband, Stephen Smith, filed for divorce in Marin County Superior Court on Jan. 11.

Czarnik, who last exchanged e-mails with Schmitt on Jan. 19, said her cousin is "a very strong person, physically and emotionally."

"She was always warm in her words, her conversation, her attitude, at least with me," Czarnik told the newspaper.

  1. Only on NBCNews.com
    1. OWN via Getty Images
      From belief to betrayal: How America fell for Armstrong
    2. pool via Reuters file
      US to Syria neighbors: Be ready to act on WMDs
    3. China: One-child policy is here to stay
    4. NRA: Practice Range
      New 'Practice Range' shooter game says it’s from NRA
    5. 'Gifted' priest indicted in crystal meth case
    6. AFP - Getty Images
      China's state media admits to air pollution crisis
    7. AFP - Getty Images
      French to send 1,000 more troops to Mali

Schmitt's students are playing a role in finding the teacher, KNTV reported.

Dozens of them have been writing on her fan page Facebook wall words of prayer and hope of her return. For example:

"Ms. Schmitt, you were my teacher 22 years ago when you lived in New York. You were an absolutely wonderful teacher, a humane energy who really helped me to write, and to enjoy reading. Your passion was wonderful. I hope you are safe."

"In my life I have never had a teacher be so real with me and teach me so much our english department has a hole in it that will never be filled until Ms.Schmitt comes back i still need her for my senior year."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments