Remembering those who have given their all for their profession is the tribute that lasts forever.
Last Friday, I had the honor of attending the groundbreaking ceremony for the National Teachers Hall of Fame’s Memorial to Fallen Educators.
As I walked amongst the crowd at the groundbreaking, I kept hearing the word ‘bittersweet.’ And that’s exactly what it was. Bitter that such an occasion, that such a memorial, is even necessary. Bitter that teachers who dedicated their lives to improving the lives of their students died doing what they love- a job they probably never guessed would put their lives on the line. But there was sweetness there, too. Sweetness that they weren’t forgotten. Sweetness that all these people, people who had never met any of the victims, came out to pay their respects- some of them driving hours to see the symbolic groundbreaking.
Tragedies like Sandy Hook and Columbine bring worthy attention to the brave sacrifices of teachers on behalf of their students, but those teachers are not alone. American educators have been losing their lives in school tragedies since 1853. Every single one deserves to be remembered, to be honored, and to be recognized for their dedication and their bravery.
The actions of the six educators at Sandy Hook show us something about teachers as people. Talk to any educator and they will tell you that they too would do whatever it took-make any sacrifice- to shield their students from harm. For educators, their students aren’t just ‘students’ and teaching isn’t just a job. It’s bigger than that. For every educator I know, their students are their family and their job is a calling.
The Memorial to Fallen Educators is a way for all of us to honor every single teacher who lost their life at work. It also serves as a reminder of what every single teacher is willing to do for their students. It was truly an honor to stand amongst the crowd and witness this bittersweet moment in history.