The selfless heroism of teachers

I read Jon Katz this weekend and what he had to say about “the awful news from Sandy Hook.” He wrote, “There was nothing for me to say, always a strange place for a writer. Some things are beyond words, even though we are awash in them. Sometimes, silence is a powerful statement.”

But I have to say something.

Friday’s awful news from Connecticut, with the loss of the 20 Sandy Hook Elementary children and the 6 educators who protected them, has affected me deeply. In my 35 years of supporting public education and the teachers who serve their communities, there hasn’t been an event that has shaken me up this much.

We still do not know what was behind the senseless and unimaginable tragedy, but we do know of the heroic acts of the principal, school psychologist, and teachers of Sandy Hook. My writing routinely hones in on policies that will support our nation’s teaching profession. Today all I can think about is how principal Dawn Hochsprung, school psychologist Mary Sherlach, and teachers Victoria Soto, Rachel Davino, Anne Marie Murphy, and Lauren Rousseau lost their lives to protect vulnerable children in the face of the most obscene and violent act.

Today all I can think about are the families who lost their loved ones and how thankful I am for mine. I am also in awe of our nation’s teaching profession. Maryrose Kristopik, a Sandy Hook music teacher, hid and huddled her students in a closet, soothing them into a quiet calm and out of harm’s way. They remained safe. She later said, “I did what any other teacher would have done.”

The National Education Association, our largest teachers’ union, is reaching out to help educators, and has a very helpful Crisis Guide that can assist educators in healing after such an unthinkable loss of life among those in their school community. The American Federation of Teachers’ Share My Lesson site, offers critical resources to help children cope with traumatic events.

I am certain more stories of teachers’ selfless heroism will continue to emerge, and maybe, just maybe, our nation will learn a deep lesson about mental health, gun safety, the importance of public education, and the profession that makes all others possible.

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