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National Teachers Hall of Fame in Emporia to include names of educators killed while on the job

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, June 8, 2013, at 5:30 p.m.

Memorial event

The National Teachers Hall of Fame will hold a groundbreaking ceremony for the Memorial to Fallen Educators at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at the corner of Merchant and 18th streets in Emporia.

To find out more about the memorial project or to make a donation, contact the National Teachers Hall of Fame at 800-96-TEACH, or visit www.nthf.org.

Four teachers, a principal and a school psychologist from Sandy Hook Elementary School.

A school bus driver from Midland City, Ala.

A teacher from Columbine High School in Colorado.

A teacher-turned-astronaut from Concord, N.H.

A junior high principal from Goddard.

Their names and dozens more will be inscribed on a new memorial in Emporia that will honor educators killed in the line of duty.

“Teachers sometimes give their lives serving and protecting the children in their care,” said Carol Strickland, executive director of the National Teachers Hall of Fame, based at Emporia State University.

“While it’s sad that something like this has to exist, we want to honor those courageous educators.”

The National Teachers Hall of Fame will break ground Thursday on a Memorial to Fallen Educators, a 10-by-10-foot black granite monument shaped like a book and inscribed with the names of teachers killed while on the job.

The idea for the project came in the aftermath of the December school shooting in Newtown, Conn., where a gunman fatally shot 20 children and six adult staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“Everybody was in absolute shock,” Strickland said. “We got a lot of calls and e-mails saying, ‘What’s the (Teachers) Hall of Fame going to do’ ” to honor the teachers?

About a month later, Charles Poland was fatally shot while trying to protect students from a gunman who boarded the school bus he was driving. While Poland blocked access to the aisle of the bus, 21 children escaped through the emergency exit.

“That was so tragic,” Strickland said. “And we started thinking, ‘Well, there’s more to it than just these incidents.’ ”

Strickland started researching examples of American educators killed while on the job and discovered more than 50, dating back to the Pontiac’s Rebellion school massacre in 1764. Enoch Brown, the schoolmaster killed that day nearly 250 years ago, will have his name etched onto the new monument in Emporia.

Other names on the memorial will include Christa McAuliffe, who died in the Challenger space shuttle explosion in 1986; David Sanders, the teacher killed during the Columbine High School shooting in 1999; and James McGee, the principal killed at Goddard Junior High in 1985.

It also will include three people who were aboard the plane that crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. They were traveling with students to the National Geographic conference in Washington, D.C., Strickland said.

She said the National Teachers Hall of Fame has raised about $40,000 so far – enough to finance the monument, which will be at 18th and Merchant streets in Emporia. Primary donors included the Pearson Foundation and Security Benefit Corp. of Topeka.

The group hopes to raise another $200,000 to pay for a concrete walkway, benches, lighting and landscaping and to finance the memorial’s upkeep.

Strickland also is encouraging school districts across the country to notify the National Teachers Hall of Fame of names that should be considered for inclusion on the memorial. The group wants to include all pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade educators – teachers, administrators, counselors, bus drivers and others – who have been killed while in service as an educator.

“The firefighters have their memorial and the law enforcement (officers) and the CIA and FBI,” she said. “People like to honor those people killed in the line of duty, and educators didn’t have that.

“So we thought, ‘If no one else has done this, why don’t we?’ ”

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @SuzanneTobias.

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