ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — He was a beloved history teacher, husband and father and some are now calling Thomas Kenning a hero. 

Kenning drowned Monday after he jumped into Lake Michigan to rescue a teenage swimmer who was in the water screaming for help. Kenning was 38.

What You Need To Know

  • Pinellas County teacher Thomas Kenning drowned Monday in Lake Michigan saving a teen swimmer

  • Kenning, 38, taught middle school history and social studies at Plato Academy in Pinellas Park

  • GoFundMe has been set to honor the memory of Kenning

Learning about their brother-in-law's death has been devastating, but his family says they are not surprised by his sacrifice. 

"He saw a moment where he knew that if it was his daughter or his wife in that predicament, he would hope that someone did what he had the fortitude to do," said his brother-in-law Justin Abad. 

Kenning's in-laws rushed to be by his wife Jasmine's side and console his 9-year-old daughter Rory. 

"He's really shining through her. You can see all of us are trying to hold it all together and she's helping us. She's the one trying to make us all feel better. When we know that it's very devastating," said his sister-in-law Shelby Abad. "He truly was the most amazing father and husband." 

Students and faculty remember Kenning as an amazing teacher. He spent the last decade of his career at Plato Academy in Pinellas Park. Principal Tonia Cunningham and Assistant Principal Chris Vinyard say he spent his decade at the charter school encouraging students to be their best. 

"Mr. Kenning was always trying to advocate for other people and have people advocate for themselves," said Vinyard. 

"I can just see him going out there and thinking to the girl [swimmer], 'You got this, we are going to get you out,'" said Cunningham. 

Chief Executive Officer of Plato Academy Matt Gunderson says Kenning was gifted at capturing the imagination of his students. 

"I wish I had teachers like him," said Gunderson. "When he talked about World War II and trench warfare he literally had the students move their desks from one side of class to two sides of the class. He really brought it to life."

He also brought historical stories to life in his books as an accomplished author. 

"Tom's legacy is going to be living on through Rory and through his acts of justice, kindness, through his books and his impact on everyone's life," added Justin Abad.

His family says though his life has been cut short, he has left a lasting legacy that they are proud of.

According to the CEO, Plato Academy Pinellas Park plans to host a memorial at a later date. 

A GoFundMe has been set to honor the memory of Kenning., or any other third-party online fundraiser, is not managed by Spectrum Bay News 9 or Spectrum News 13. For more information on how GoFundMe works and its rules, visit