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If anybody wants to know the kind of people who become teachers, they need only read about the bravery of the staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School. It starts with the principal, Dawn Hochsprung, who had the presence of mind to turn on the school intercom, even after she had been shot, broadcasting screaming and gunshots into every classroom so that others had to time to take cover. Although she herself died, she may have saved hundreds of lives.

Mary Sherlach, the school psychologist, ran out into the hallway with Hochsprung to confront the killer, shouting at others to lock the doors. Sherlach also was shot to death.

Maryrose Kristopik, a music teacher, kept 20 children safe by barricading them in a closet. As the gunman reportedly pounded on the door screaming, “Let me in! Let me in!”, Kristopik blocked the door with her own body and told the children she loved them and to keep absolutely quiet.

Victoria Soto huddled her first-grade class into a large closet and told the gunman they’d gone to the gym before she herself was shot to death.

Kaitlin Roig herded 15 children into a tiny bathroom when she first heard gunshots, locking the door after pulling a bookshelf across it. When the police arrived to tell them it was safe to come out, Roig made them put their badges under the door so she could be sure it was them before she lead the children out to safety.

Abbey Clements pulled two students and two other teachers who were standing in the hall through her door to hide them. Trying to calm the children, she read them stories to drown out the sounds of gunshots and screams being broadcast over the intercom.

An as-yet-unidentified teacher pulled an eight-year-old boy, caught standing in a hallway as bullets whistled past, into a classroom and out of harm’s way.

Another unidentified teacher used her body to hold a door shut and was shot in the arm and leg through the door.

To be sure, it was not just teachers who showed extraordinary courage. While the gunman roamed the halls, a school janitor, whose name has not yet been made public, ran along corridors shouting, “Get down! Hide!,” all the while checking that classroom doors were locked. School librarian Yvonne Cech locked herself, two library clerks, an assistant and 18 fourth-graders in a closet behind the library's filing cabinets while the sound of gunfire cracked outside.

It seems like every other week I’m reading garbage in my local newspaper about how lazy and selfish teachers and teachers unions are destroying our economy and our country. On the contrary, teachers are among this nation's greatest and most valuable assets.

If only our politicians were as brave as our teachers.

Originally posted to Richard Riis on Sat Dec 15, 2012 at 06:19 PM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions.

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