Students and staff at the Martha’s Vineyard Early Childhood Center are mourning the loss of preschool lead teacher Sherry Winnette, who died last weekend.

“She was an amazing teacher, and clearly the children, the staff, and the parents will miss her,” said Debbie Milne, the director of early childhood programs at Martha’s Vineyard Community Services. Ms. Winnette, who had been at the center since September, taught a class of 14 three and four-year-olds.

“She loved being with the kids and was very creative and joyful, and sang with them, and was really gifted doing science curriculum,” Ms. Milne said.

Ms. Winnette, 59, was found dead Sunday afternoon at the Caroline Tuthill Nature Preserve, after being reported missing earlier that morning.

State police Sgt. Thomas Medeiros said there was nothing suspicious about the case.

According to Edgartown police officer Joel DeRoche, Ms. Winnette’s housemate reported her missing at about 11 a.m. Sunday. She was last seen late Saturday night, he said.

An Islandwide search followed, with the assistance of Oak Bluffs police officer Jeffrey Trudel and his specially-trained black Labrador, Buster. At about 4 p.m. Sunday, Buster located Ms. Winnette’s body off one of the trails in the nature preserve, Mr. De-Roche said.

Sunday night, Ms. Milne said, she and other teachers called the staff and parents to notify them of Ms. Winnette’s death. On Monday, teachers talked to their students during the morning circle time

The children are making cards of things they remember about Sherry to send to her family, she said, and the classes have been talking about trying to understand what death means.

In a letter sent to parents Monday, Ms. Milne said the center will continue with regular routines and activities, and staff will answer the students’ questions, and “let them know if we don’t have the answer.” A pamphlet, Talking with Young Children about Death, is available in the preschool classrooms, and Marney Toole, the center’s health consultant, is available to meet with parents.

“What is most helpful for children is to provide them with simple, straightforward and honest answers to their questions,” Ms. Milne wrote to parents.

She included some of the children’s comments and questions. Some had questions about where and how she died, and others said: “My hamster died . . . My dog died, but we got a new one. Are we going to get a new Sherry? . . . I’m gonna make a picture because her family is going to be sad too . . . She always let me play . . . It’s going to be hard.”

Ms. Milne’s letter to parents was accompanied by a child’s drawing labeled “Sherry,” of a smiling person.

“We really will miss her,” Ms. Milne said. “She was a great addition to the staff.”

For now, permanent substitute teachers on staff are taking over Ms. Winnette’s classes, and the center will be advertising for the job. “She will be hard to replace,” Ms. Milne said.