Teachers Hailed as Heroes   

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Dec. 15 2012 1:25 PM

Teachers Who Died While Saving Students Are Hailed as Heroes

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People gather at a makeshift memorial outside a firehouse which was used as a staging area for families following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

Amid the mourning in Newtown, there is also widespread gratitude from parents for the adults who likely prevented more children from being killed. At least three of the six adults who were killed at Sandy Hook elementary appear to have died while trying to protect students. Probably one of the most dramatic examples was first-grade teacher Vicki Leigh Soto, a 27-year-old who literally put herself in the line of fire. When the shooting started, she gathered the children in her classroom and took them inside a closet, reports the Wall Street Journal. “In doing so, she put herself between the kids and the gunman’s bullets,” the teacher’s cousin said. “That is how she was found. Huddled with her children.” (Watch ABC News’ Chris Cuomo interview the cousin, James Willsie, after the jump.)

While several teachers naturally tried to protect themselves when they heard the shots, school principal Dawn Hochsprung, 47, and school psychologist Mary Sherlach, 56, ran toward the shots, a school therapist said. Although the circumstances surrounding their deaths are still unclear, Rabbi Shaul Praver, who was at the crime scene, said they were both killed execution style, reports the Telegraph. One teacher says she believes it was the principal who turned on the campus loudspeaker system that alerted school officials there was something going on, allowing them to hide. It wasn’t just those killed who were hailed for their bravery. One teacher, for example, was shot in the arm and leg as she pressed her body against a door to hold it shut. A music teacher, Maryrose Kristopik, is being praised for barricading her class in a closet and keeping all her students calm while the gunman tried to get inside, reports the New York Daily News.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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