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.
“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 MySandyHookFamily.org, 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 www.nea.org/safeschools