Memorial Honoring Fallen Educators to Be Dedicated in 2014

By Edward Graham

As the nation approaches the one-year anniversary of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut that took the lives of six educators and 20 students last December, plans are underway to create a memorial to honor all those who have lost their lives teaching and working in America’s schools.

The National Teachers Hall of Fame (NTHF) conceived the plans for the Memorial to Fallen Educators in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting. It will recognize all teachers and educators throughout U.S. history who made the ultimate sacrifice for their students.

The memorial, which will be built on the campus of Emporia State University in Emporia, Kansas will include the names of more than 60 educators—including Massachusetts high school teacher Colleen Ritzer and Nevada middle school teacher Michael Landsberry, both killed in October—inscribed on a 6’x6’ black granite book monument.

The idea for the monument stemmed from a desire to create a permanent memorial—the first of its kind—to recognize and remember the work and determination of all educators.

Attendees at the 2013 Nation Teacher Hall of Fame induction ceremony break ground on the Memorial to Fallen Educators, to be dedicated June 12, 2014.

“America has a tendency to react to the news, so when Columbine happens or Sandy Hook or Sparks, Nevada, or Danvers, Massachusetts, there’s an immediate outpour of ‘How could this happen?’ or ‘How could an educator be killed doing what they loved doing?’ But then it fades,” says NTHF Executive Director Carol Strickland. “It’s not that we ever really forget, but there’s not a real reminder there. When we have a memorial, it’s a constant reminder of what teachers do every single day.”

The NTHF, which was founded in 1989 and is located in Emporia, Kansas, is dedicated to recognizing and celebrating exceptional PreK-12 teachers across the nation. The NEA has a longstanding relationship with the NTHF, serving as a partner, sponsor, and supporter of the Hall’s efforts to spotlight the heroes in education. Since 1992, five teachers have been inducted annually into the Hall of Fame. At the most recent induction ceremony in June 2013, educators, dignitaries, and 2013 HOF inductees had the opportunity to participate in the groundbreaking ceremony for the memorial.

The memorial is scheduled to be dedicated on June 12, 2014. Among the first names to be etched onto the granite memorial will be the six Sandy Hook educators who lost their lives trying to protect their students—Anne Marie Murphy, Dawn Hochsprung, Lauren Rousseau, Mary Sherlach, Rachel D’Avino, and Victoria Soto

“We want to have a permanent memorial to those educators who gave their lives doing what they loved doing, and that was working with America’s school children,” Strickland says. “They’re the first line of defense, the first responders, the surrogate parents for students when they’re in their care. Whatever their assignment is, educators touch lives. If we can have this national monument to honor them, then they will not be forgotten. And that’s our goal.”

To donate money for the memorial’s construction, contact NTHF at 620-341-5660. Contributions may also be mailed to: National Teachers Hall of Fame, 1200 Commercial, Campus Box 4017, Emporia, KS 66801.

Visit, a site created by the families of the Sandy Hook victims to to share remembrances of those who lost their lives that day.

For resources on safe and secure schools, visit

  • These educators who have risked, and in many cases given their lives, in order to protect our children deserve to be remembered – and honored. I commend the National Teachers Hall of Fame for this initiative.

    As we honor these individuals we also say something very important about the education professions. That teachers, school staff, school psychologists, assistants and aides, custodians and school bus drivers and many more have all stepped up to the mark when called upon to do so, and will continued to do so. Not just when faced with terrible danger, but every day. In honoring those who have fallen, we honor that spirit of dedication. We are reminded that these are honorable professions that deserve the Nation’s respect and gratitude.

    I would not wish for a moment to take the focus away from the NTHF’s commendable plan, but I hope this might also be an opportunity to start a discussion about the merit of creating an Education Medal of Valor, equivalent to the existing National Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor.

    A memorial is a beautiful tribute to those who have fallen – and I ask every reader to support the fund to create it. A recurrent National Honor, an Education Medal of Valor, will acknowledge not just those who died, but every educator who has stood and faced mortal danger. We should honor them all. Honor that spirit amongst us, standing together.

    It would be inappropriate to direct the reader to any specific site where they could follow the debate about the Education Medal of Valor. It it enough to mention that it has been discussed in the context of Mr Michael Landsberry and Ms Jencie Fagan, and of course, and most of all, in response to the courage and sacrifice of the the women of Sandy Hook Elementary School.

    Our teacher heroes are extraordinary, and I use just one example of many to illustrate this point. When Jencie Fagan stood against the child-gunman – between him and her charges – she faced him not with a gun, but with love. And when she had stopped the shooting, and persuaded him to put the gun down, she folded him in her arms. Educators are special people, and they are special heroes who deserve to be honored in as many ways as we can.