School officials said that Barkley died while on vacation in Florida on Monday.
She was swimming in the Atlantic Ocean and was caught in a rip tide.
Dodgen Principal Loralee Hill sent a letter to parents letting them know that the seventh-grade science teacher, who taught at the school for 16 years, was killed.
"I was heartbroken," Hill said. "I had to step back and think about everything."
The school is offering counseling to students who are having a hard time with the news.
Hunnel said Barkley is a teacher who will be missed and never forgotten.
"She had a fantastic personality," Hunnel said. "Nobody brought smiles to her science classroom like she did, nobody was able to make kids laugh and make them care about her field."
In the letter to parents, school officials also said that Barkley was an organ donor and her organs have already saved two lives.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.