Amy Ahearn, 40, has been missing since August. That's when she failed to show up to teach classes at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo.
By all accounts, the English composition and literature professor was well-liked and respected as a teacher, so her disappearance is unusual
"She was so dedicated to her job and to her students that it would seem very out of character," said student Anne Banks.
Ahearn's family, who lives outside of California, created a missing person's Facebook page, hoping someone may have information about her whereabouts.
The family believes Ahearn is suffering from Huntington's disease, which runs in the family. Though Ahearn has never been diagnosed, the family said she began exhibiting symptoms of mental illness five years ago.
"I think that she is living in a car, and I think she's very afraid that people are trying to kill her," said Ahearn's sister, Jenny Rogers.
Ahearn lived in a Lake Forest condominium complex. Neighbors said she kept to herself but was often seen looking out the window.
While authorities investigate Ahearn's disappearance, the family hopes she is safe and able to let her sisters know she's alright.
"We don't believe that she's being held against her will or under any sort of duress or anything like that. Because she is actively trying to keep from being found, it's just complicating the system right now," said Lt. Steve Doan of Orange County Sheriff's Department.
Officials at Saddleback College said they're working with authorities to help locate Ahearn.
"Everyone in the Saddleback College community is wishing the best for instructor Amy Ahearn and her family and we hope that she is found to be safe," college President Tod A. Burnett said in a statement. "College and district administrators have been in contact with and assisted Ahearn's family and have offered to provide any help and information that would aid in the search."
Anyone with information was asked to contact the Orange County Sheriff's Department at (714) 628-7170.