'Sadness' hangs over start of school year because of missing B.C. teacher

At Katzie Elementary in Surrey, the start of a new school year began with a sense of sadness.

That’s because one of their teachers who was supposed to be there is missing.

“Everyone’s just feeling the weight of her not being here,” said Ashley Bunting, who serves as president of the school’s parent advisory committee.

Naomi Onotera, 40, is Katzie’s teacher-librarian.

Police say she was last seen the evening of Aug. 28 by her husband leaving their Langley home near 200th Street and 50th Avenue. Her mom reported her missing the following day.

Langley RCMP's Serious Crimes Unit is investigating. Investigators have received a couple dozen tips and are sorting through surveillance footage from the area.

“It’s surreal. It doesn’t seem real to us. It’s basically all of our worst nightmares,” said Onotera’s emotional sister, Kirsten Kerr, who spoke publicly about the case for the first time Tuesday.

“We all miss her very much we, we can’t live without her. We just want her home safely,” Kerr said through tears.

Those who know Onotera say her disappearance is completely out of character and that she would never leave her 20-month-old daughter.

“Naomi is probably one of the most gentle, kind, caring people. She loves her daughter so much and her family so much, so this feels out of character, feels unlike anything she would do,” explained Bunting.

Kerr last saw her sister a few days before she vanished and said Onotera never indicated anything was wrong.

“She really did love her job and was excited to go back,” her sister explained.

Friends and strangers alike have been searching for Onotera. Posters have gone up near her school. A candlelight vigil was held on the weekend.

“We’re so thankful for the help of the community. We’re so thankful for people putting up posters all around their neighbourhoods and just going out and searching,” said Kerr.

Onotera is believed to have been wearing black stretchy pants and a black t-shirt on the day she was last seen.

Langley RCMP”s tip line can be reached at 604-532-3398.