Bag pipes played solemnly in the distance as family, friends, colleagues and community members approached the Memorial to Fallen Educators on Thursday afternoon. The memorial, located on the Emporia State University campus was dedicated in a special ceremony to honor the 113 educators who have died doing the work they loved — educating America's young people.

Creating the memorial

When six educators and 20 school children were killed in a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, Carol Strickland, director of the National Teacher's Hall of Fame, was motivated to create a memorial to all educators that have lost their lives in "the line of duty." When she began researching the number of educators who have lost their lives she was shocked to find that 113 educators had made the ultimate sacrifice.

“They gave their lives for education, said Strickland. “Those in Sandy Hook in particular, they found some of the teachers with their bodies over the children trying to protect them. Those teachers literally threw their lives down.”

Strickland began the process of fundraising and through generous contributions from a variety of donors, the Memorial to Fallen Educators grew into a memorial plaza. The NTHF is committed to maintaining the memorial as an on-going tribute to the educators that have given so much.

"We promise to maintain the memorial," said Strickland. "To add improvements to make this an enduring tribute to these very special people and to preserve our fallen educators legacies on our website with pictures and life stories. Hopefully we will never have to add anymore names in the future. This should be a solemn reminder today that school tragedies should never happen."

Dedication Ceremony

The dedication ceremony was a solemn tribute to the 113 educators who made the ultimate sacrifice. Anthony Salvatore of the Newtown Connecticut Administrators Union and Thomas Kuroski with the American Federation of Teachers also from Newtown Connecticut spoke at the dedication ceremony. Both expressed that taking part in the memorial dedication was a part of their journey to healing as well as a fitting tribute to the lives of their friends and collegues.

"Before Dec. 14, 2012, I never thought I would be standing here listening to Liesel read the names of six of our colleagues and friends," said Kuroski. "Yet after all this happened, after all that we have been through, it is comforting to know that there is a place that they are, with 105 other educators who died in the line of duty, and will forever be known not for the horrendous circumstances surrounding their deaths but for the passionate and heartfelt work of their lives. Educating, nurturing and supporting our nations future."

Salvatore spoke of his colleagues and the passion they had for teaching and the students they worked with each day.

"I would say that what you see is what you get," said Salvatore. "That is absolutely how they lived their lives every day. They gave 120 percent to their kids. They would do anything at anytime. I was amazed at the dedication and real love that they had for their kids and those are their kids. It wasn't a job, they were protecting their family members. Even in the end, there was an educator found with a child in her arms and that is what she did every day, even before then."

At the memorial, the names of all 113 educators were read aloud by Kuroski, Liesl Fressola, Sandy Hook Elementary Teacher, and the members of the NTHF Class of 2014. Fressola was overcome with emotion as she read the names of her friends Rachel D'Avino, Dawn Hochsprung, Anne Marie Murphy, Lauren Rousseau, Mary Sherlach and Victoria Soto. Soto was Fressola's best friend.

 Fressola released the following in a written statement:

"I am honored to be here today representing the staff at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Connecticut," Fressola said. "I felt compelled to attend this dedication because one of the teachers being honored today, Vicki Soto, was my best friend at Sandy Hook. I would much rather be here tomorrow to induct her and my other colleagues into the National Teachers Hall of Fame. But that will never happen. Having the Memorial to Fallen Educators stand alongside the National Teachers Hall of Fame is a beautiful way to honor the memory of those who gave their lives doing what they love."

Remembering the Fallen

James McGee was a junior high school principal in Goddard, Kansas, when he was killed by a student on Jan. 21, 1985. McGee's wife Crystal was pregnant their fourth child at the time. McGee's widow, two of his siblings and two of his children attended the dedication ceremony. The family expressed how important it is to know that their loved one is not forgotten.

"I think that is one of the hard things about loss," said Crystal McGee. "You lose somebody you love and you see the world going on. So it is important to families to know that the world did stop for a moment to remember him."  

Moving Forward

Those in attendance expressed their desire for an end to school violence but also recognized the reality of the world we live in. Kuroski pointed out that there have been more than 70 school shootings since the Sandy Hook tragedy. Keynote speaker, Ruthanne Buck, Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education expressed her appreciation for the memorial but her desire for schools to be safe havens for students and educators alike.

"I would like to thank Carol and the National Teachers Hall of Fame for recognizing these fallen heroes," said Buck. "But it is my hope that we never etch another name into the granite."

The following individuals' names are inscribed on the National Memorial to Fallen Educators:

Judy Jester

Charles Poland

Ron Edwards

Shannon Wright

George Cheshire

Mike Suchar

Burton Wragg

Robert Brens

Catherine Tucker

Cherilyn Hawkley

Reginald Millsaps

Sam LaCara

William David Sanders

Anthony Annunziata

Rachel D'Avino

Dawn Hochsprung

Anne Marie Murphy

Lauren Rousseau

Mary Sherlach

Victoria Leigh Soto

Hilda Taylor

Sara Clark

James Daniel Debeuneure

Richard Allen

James Adamms

Barry Grunow

Sister Michelle Lewis

Dale Regan

Euel "Bubba" Thomas Smith

Murray Kennedy

Dr. Horace Morgan

Carnel Cook

Sister Mary Kelley

Sister Mary Lyng

Sister Therese

Aurthur Baker

Ed Thomas

James McGee

William Butler

Marvin Hicks

Deanna McDavid

DeWayne Bunch

Miss Shockley

Carole Day

David "Jake" McHugh

Maribel Gonzalez

Rev. Theodore Brown

Colleen Ritzer

Blanche Harte

Emory Huyck

Hazel Weatherbee

Joseph Piasecki

Forrest Willey

Merlyn Erickson

Derrick Brun

Neva Rogers

Nedra Morris

Henrietta Smith

Vicki Kaspar

Clarence Piggott

Isaac Perez

Michael Landsberry

Christa McAuliffe

Christine Thick

David Cartier

Sandra Moretz

Kevin Perine

Baptiste Nicolucci

John Sacci

Walter Lestarchick

Ollie Johnson

Dwayne Reeves

Carolyn Rustvold

Irwin Goodman

John Lane

Earl Metcalf

Patrick Daly

Gladys Hollister

Peter Christopher

Demetrius Minifee

Garland Lane

Enoch Brown

Samson Freedman

John Gillette

Eugene Segro

Henry Chiarello

Dennis Ray Hepler

Phyllis Senn

Irene Fann

Carolyn Foster

Joyce Gregory

Ken Bruce

Suzette York

Louise Arnold

Laura Elizabeth Bell

Limmie Raines Butler

Masel Lorene Hanna

Lenna Hunt

Johnnie Nelso

Mattie Price

William Tate

Louise Waller

Jennie Kolter

James Montgomery

Wilbur "Rod" Grayson

Todd Henry

Mary Alicia Shanks

Karen Farley

Donna Harrison

Leona Caires

Bob Mars

Dale Breitlow

John Alfred Klang

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.