Their responsibilities are many — whether in Newtown or in our own Cleveland and Bradley County hometown — but in many cases their numbers are few.
They are the administrators, whether a principal, assistant principal or headmaster.
They are the teachers, who are the classroom guardians of our nation’s children.
They are the staff, whether administrative assistants, librarians, counselors, psychologists, coaches, nutritionists, food service workers or custodial employees.
They are the school resource officers who serve as any educational facility’s first line of defense for those schools fortunate enough to have them.
In immediate response to a lone gunman who forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary, many in the above groups are credited with playing significant roles in attempting to stop the intruder. Some were injured. Six died. All will be remembered in Newtown and within the walls of the school as heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice in attempting to protect the children of others.
We speak of Rachel D’Avino, 29, a behavioral therapist.
We speak of Dawn Hochsprung, 47, the principal.
We speak of Anne Marie Murphy, 52, a teacher.
We speak of Lauren Rousseau, 30, a teacher.
We speak of Mary Sherlach, 56, school psychologist.
We speak of Victoria Soto, 27, a teacher.
Each of these six deaths is as tragic as those of the 20 defenseless children who lost their lives. And one had a Cleveland connection. She was Victoria Soto, an exuberant, young 27-year-old instructor who called her students her “little angels,” and who is survived by several family members in Bradley County.
These senseless killings continue to dominate dialogue from one corner of our nation to the other, and the arms control debate in Washington, D.C., has reached new heights — and rightfully so. Its frenzy is not expected to slow anytime soon as vested interest groups plot their strategies. It is our hope all sides will spend less time defending their beliefs and more time in bringing resolution to this growing wave of violence against all American people.
It is a threat to American citizens in all communities.
It is an unwarranted assault on that which most consider hallowed ground — our schools, and most importantly, the children who dwell within.
It is an insult to the freedoms and privileges that define America.
The unspeakable at Sandy Hook, in spite of all its negatives, did open our eyes to a positive about education in our country. We refer to the teachers and school staff whose dedication as educators on this day was trumped by a willingness to defend their precious pupils in the most horrific of life-threatening circumstances.
Teachers, staff and administrators are the molders of young minds, but also are the caregivers of our children.
On Dec. 14, a day when evil came to Newtown, a group of professional educators did what any parent would do. They protected the children.
According to an Associated Press article this week that quoted Hal Krantz, a teacher at Coral Springs Middle School near Fort Lauderdale, Fla., “I really hope a lot of parents see teachers in a little bit of a different light about all that we do.”
Surely education, and the teachers who lead it, have worked in the spotlight long before Sandy Hook and for different reasons. Some of the focus has been far from glamorous.
But in the aftermath of Sandy Hook, we have seen the remarkable good among our educators. We also have witnessed their humanity through endearing acts of courage.
No words can do complete justice to these leaders of education.
But we can salute them. And we do thank them.
Although death is too extreme a sacrifice to expect of any who are upholding their responsibilities to society, when it does come its impact should never be forgotten.
Sandy Hook will become a poster child for change.
And its fallen educators are now martyrs for all who teach.