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Remember Sandy Hook victims, strive to be like heroic teachers

As a nation, we just marked the second anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

December 14, 2012, was the end of my first semester here at the University and my first full day home for winter break.

By midmorning I was glued to the news on television as outlets reported the horror and false details were cleared up.

At the end of the day, the fact remained that 20 little children and 6 brave school personnel had been murdered. As a future teacher, I was sad, sickened and terrified.

I had a conversation with a friend after the holidays about what we would do if we were involved in a situation like that once we became teachers.

She said that she hoped she would be a Victoria Soto, referring to the first-grade teacher who had died protecting her young charges.

Personally, I would prefer to be a Caitlin Roig, who had crammed her first-grade class into the class bathroom and survived along with them.

It made me wonder, though. What would I do?

While I have never been in a situation like that and I pray I never will be, I also pray that if I were, I would die like those heroic teachers: protecting my students.

Combined with the ethics of my profession, the love I would have for my students would demand no less.

You might ask how I would know for certain that I would love my students and I would answer that it’s because I already have.

I care about the students I have already interacted with, even on a weekly basis, like my religious education students last year.

I loved each one and I was heartbroken when one of them passed away this summer.

She was bright and curious. She loved softball and she pushed me to explain tenets of the Catholic faith like I never thought I’d have to.

When I heard of her death, I took comfort in knowing that I had been a part of her life and she knew that many people cared about her.

It made me wonder once again, though. In 40 years or so of teaching, the sad reality is that I will likely lose some students.

And if I came to love the students I saw once a week, maybe twice in church, how much more will it hurt to lose a student I see in my classroom every day all year?

As a pre-service teacher, I have become more aware of how important my presence will be to the young adolescents I will teach. Not just my presence, I mean; that of any of their teachers.

We could be the only adults in their lives who truly care about them.

Teaching is about more than instruction. That’s part of it, but knowing the best way to reach your students requires that you know them, talk to them and listen to them.

Let them know you respect them.

If my future students learn nothing else in my classes, they will know that I care about them.

Remember those children who lost their lives.

I will honor the memory of those teachers by pledging to be that caring connection to the young people I will work with, even it costs me my life.

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