Three representatives from The National Teachers Hall of Fame will travel to Newtown, Connecticut, on Wednesday to pay tribute to the Sandy Hook educators and lay a wreath at the new memorial dedicated in November in Newtown.
For NTHF representatives Carol Strickland, Jennifer Baldwin and Sally Conard the purpose is two-fold: first, to observe the 10th anniversary by remembering those lost, and secondly, to unite the two memorials over 1,000 miles apart.
Dr. Anthony Salvatore, a retired Newtown Public School administrator, is working with local officials to welcome the Kansas visitors so that the placing of the wreath will be in keeping with the new memorial’s guidelines. The wreath laying will be done in silence and with quiet reflection that respects the privacy of others while honoring the six professional educators whose names are inscribed on both memorials in Emporia and Sandy Hook. Individual flowers will also recognize the lives of 20 first graders with the impassioned plea, “No more names.”
A Look Back
Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2012, marks a tragic day in the history of education, especially in the community of Newtown, Connecticut. It was on that day that 20 students and six of their educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School lost their lives in a horrific assault by a lone gunman.
As the country reeled from the news, almost 1,400 miles away in Emporia, Kansas, the phone lines and emails were alive with emphatic pleas to The National Teachers Hall of Fame from members who wanted to do something to honor their six colleagues. At first, the plan was to honor them at induction ceremonies the following June, but that seemed too little and not soon enough.
But then in January 2013, in Midland City, Alabama, bus driver Chuck Poland was killed while trying to protect the students on his bus from a gunman. Seven educators slain in two months while simply doing the job they loved…working with America’s school children. It was felt that something much more permanent needed to be done to honor these heroic educators.
It was decided that the Hall of Fame would design, raise the funds and dedicate a Memorial to Fallen Educators, much like those memorials for other professions such as law enforcement and firefighters. Research began so that others who had fallen in the line of duty, through no fault of their own, through accidents or intentional violence while on duty in their school systems could be honored along with Dawn Hochsprung, Victoria Soto, Lauren Rousseau, Mary Sherlach, Rachel D’Avino and Anne Marie Murphy.
The intensive research turned up 114 names for the planned memorial, which would consist of a paved patio surrounded by native limestone walls and two 6 feet by 6 feet black granite pieces, sculpted as books on which the name, location and date of loss for each person would be etched in gold lettering.
The ceremonial groundbreaking occurred in June 2013, and the completed project was dedicated in June 2014. Guests from Newtown helped to unveil the memorial and spoke at the dedication ceremony. Each year in June, the memorial is re-dedicated to add names of educators who have recently been lost or those who were not discovered in the original research. Salvatore has attended each ceremony in Emporia and continues to be a keynote speaker every June. He has been instrumental in keeping the lines of communication open between Newtown, the inspiration for the National Memorial, and the Hall of Fame in faraway Kansas.
Today, there are three granite books bearing 179 names, and it is now the only national memorial in the state of Kansas, after receiving Congressional designation in 2018. It is now known as the only National Memorial to Fallen Educators.
Dr. Anthony Salvatore, a retired Newtown Public School administrator, speaks during the 2019 rededication of the National Memorial to Fallen Educators in Emporia, Kansas.