School Climate & Safety

Still Adding Names: How a Memorial to Honor Teachers Killed at Sandy Hook Looks Today

By Denisa R. Superville — December 15, 2022 4 min read
Anthony Salvatore, a former assistant principal at Sandy Hook Elementary School, places a rose on the memorial to the educators and students slain at Sandy Hook Elementary School to commemorate 10 years since the shooting.
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Shortly after news broke that 20 children and six educators had been killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Carol Strickland started receiving calls and emails from teachers.

What can we do? We need to do something. These are our colleagues.

Halfway across the country, Strickland, the emeritus executive director of the National Teachers Hall of Fame, thought about honoring the slain teachers with a moment of silence at the organization’s induction ceremony the following year.

What started as an earnest appeal from teachers to remember their colleagues who’d been killed turned into the National Memorial to Fallen Educators in Emporia, Kan.

This week, a decade after the Sandy Hook shooting, Strickland and representatives from the Kansas memorial traveled to Newtown to pay their respects.

“It was something that we wanted to do—to pay tribute on the 10th anniversary and to unite the two memorials,” said Strickland, who was accompanied by Jennifer Baldwin, an administrative assistant at the Hall of Fame, and Sally Conard, a docent.

In a visit early Wednesday, Christopher Poulos, a Spanish teacher and an instructional leader in the Redding, Conn., school district and a 2022 inductee into the National Teachers Hall of Fame, and David Bosso, a social studies teacher in Berlin, Conn., and a 2019 inductee into the National Teachers Hall of Fame, laid 26 yellow ribbons on a memorial that bears the names of the children and adults who were killed.

Anthony Salvatore, a former assistant principal at Sandy Hook Elementary School who left the school before the shooting, laid a long-stemmed red rose on each of the names.

Together, the group placed a wreath with six white roses—one for each of the educators—and 20 carnations for the children on the memorial.

“It’s been 10 years,” Salvatore said in a phone interview. “It seems like it was 10 days ago, rather than 10 years.”

Remembering educators killed by gun violence

When the Memorial to Fallen Educators opened in June 2014, representatives from Newtown traveled to Kansas to attend the ceremony. Strickland and others had always hoped to make the journey to Connecticut because that tragedy drove home the need to honor teachers and others killed while carrying out their regular job duties.

See also

Carol Strickland, director of the National Teachers Hall of Fame in Emporia, Kan., talks to high school seniors at the Memorial to Fallen Educators. The monument to school employees who’ve died on the job will be rededicated as a national memorial this month.
Carol Strickland, director of the National Teachers Hall of Fame in Emporia, Kan., talks to high school seniors at the Memorial to Fallen Educators. The monument to school employees who’ve died on the job will be rededicated as a national memorial this month.
Julie Denesha for Education Week

“We wanted to let them know that 1,400 miles away in Emporia, Kan., these educators will always be remembered—and they have been,” Strickland said.

Salvatore, who has been involved with the Memorial to Fallen Educators ever since he heard of it, said Wednesday’s event was emotional.

Christopher Poulos, 2022 National Teachers Hall of Fame Inductee; Davis Bosso, 2009 National Teachers Hall of Fame Inductee; Anthony Salvatore, former assistant principal, Sandy Hook Elementary School; and Carole Strickland, executive director of the National Teachers Hall of Fame visited the memorial paying tribute to the educators and students who were killed 10 years ago.

He helped organize the trip, which included a visit with the superintendent and a tour of the new Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“I thought it was such a powerful message—that other people from across the county we didn’t know would do such a project: create a permanent memorial to people that I knew.”

Hoping there would be ‘No More Names’

The names of 179 teachers, custodians, bus drivers, and other school workers who have been killed on the job are now carved into three granite books on the grounds of Emporia State University. In recent years, about half the names have been victims of gun violence. Others have perished in accidents, including fires and falls.

This year, the memorial added the names of Eva Mireles and Irma Garcia, the two teachers who were killed in Uvalde, Texas, in May when 19 children were also murdered. Among the six names that will already be on next year’s list is Jean Kuczka, a physical education teacher, who was killed in a shooting in St. Louis in October.

“We have our fingers crossed” that there won’t be more names, Strickland said.

“It’s surreal for me,” she said. “I taught for so many years and I was cognizant of fire drills, and keeping kids safe, and making sure that we had a safe haven for kids when they were traumatized or having panic attacks. … I think we saw that as part of our job. But now there is so much more, and you have to think about being a first responder. This is never in a teacher’s contract or an educator’s contract: You may be the one person to save a person’s life or you may be the first one to step in and take the bullet.”

At the annual memorial dedication ceremony, attendees repeat the slogan, ‘No More Names.’

“And, yet, every year, we have to add names,” Strickland said. “I don’t think any of us had any inclination of what the future would be. We were thinking about the moment and honoring those that had fallen, with the hope that it wouldn’t keep happening. And then—my gosh—we had Parkland, and so many more. It’s just continued. Ten years later, people are sitting here saying, ‘I thought Sandy Hook was the line in the sand when we thought this would stop.’”

Salvatore also yearns for that day when the memorial won’t include adding the names of educators felled by gun violence.

“I hope there would never be another shooting anywhere—in school or in church or in a mall,” he said. “I think it is possible if we get together as a nation to be kinder to each other and be more positive toward each other.”

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