Andrea Marie Kyles, a counselor and former teacher with the Montgomery County public school system, died of a brain tumor Friday at her Burtonsville home. She was 51.
Born Andrea Marie Payne in Roanoke, Va., she graduated from John Marshall High School in Richmond and earned a bachelor's degree in education from Hollins University in 1974.
After graduation, she joined the Montgomery County public schools as an elementary school teacher in Silver Spring. She taught at Cloverly Elementary School for several years before switching to William Tyler Page Elementary.
At Page, Ms. Kyles was in charge of the gifted program and soon developed a reputation for her skill in teaching children with attention deficit disorder, said Principal Fred J. Greene.
"She was an outstanding teacher," Mr. Greene said. "She did a lot of things with students on her own time and frequently would visit students in their homes."
In 1999, Ms. Kyles earned a master's degree in counseling from Bowie State University and in 2001 took a job as a counselor at Benjamin Banneker Middle School in Burtonsville.
Although she had worked with young children her entire career, Ms. Kyles quickly proved she had a knack with older ones. Children at Banneker frequently dropped by her office to share their problems, said Josie McCathorine, who runs the school's counseling program.
"She seemed like she had all the time in the world, and you were the most important person at the time," said Ms. McCathorine. "She never gave you the feeling she was rushing you."
Ms. Kyles' friends and family say they were not surprised at her successful foray into counseling. Twice married - and divorced - early in life, Ms. Kyles seemed especially sensitive and adept at helping other people work through their troubles, they said.
"She was a praying woman who always saw the good in everyone," said her friend Joanie Williamson of Burtonsville. "She could pick out your talents and gifts. When you were with her, you felt so warm."
In 1993, Ms. Kyles recruited Ms. Williamson to create Beauty for Ashes, a small nonprofit religious organization that specialized in ministering to women who had suffered abuse or other problems. Ms. Kyles and her staff traveled as far as Michigan to do their work, which eventually included helping men and families.
Ms. Kyles also served as a counselor, Bible school teacher and altar minister at Immanuel's Church in Silver Spring, where she was a member for 14 years.
Anne Fugett of Silver Spring, another friend, added that Ms. Kyles "knew her Bible backward and forward and was someone who worked very hard at whatever she put her hand to."
Ms. Kyles received a diagnosis of lung cancer in 2002, and the disease eventually spread to her brain. Even as she fought cancer, friends said, one of the most popular Bible classes she taught at Immanuel's Church focused on the theme of hope.
Services will be held at 1 p.m. tomorrow at Immanuel's Church, 16819 New Hampshire Ave.
Ms. Kyles is survived by a daughter, Astarte Kyles of Laurel; her father and stepmother, Osborne and Famebridge C. Payne of Columbia; two half-sisters, Famebridge S. Payne and Sarita Payne, both of Columbia; and numerous cousins.