Let the Nurturers Nurture

There were some amazing stories of human courage and compassion that came out of the horrors in Newtown, Connecticut. Teacher Vicki Soto gave her precious young life to protect her tiny first graders. Shielding them from harm was her first instinct and her last act. In the face of terror unimaginable, her instinct to protect the defenseless students who depended on her for their safety and well-being did not fail.

If you think about it, she did this very thing each and every day. She went to that school and protected those children from the meanness of life as she spoke to them, I’m sure, in gentle teacher tones about being nice to one another, sharing, how to treat others who were different than them. She made choices daily about what language and tone to use in front of children, what attitudes to take and what clothes to wear. I didn’t know this amazing teacher, but in reading about her and knowing the calling she followed with her life, I can say with confidence that she spent the five years of her all-too-short career protecting little ones from harm on a daily basis.

Vicki Soto was a workaday patriot, with no medals and no parades. A sacrificial footsoldier of nurturing who fought on America’s front lines of care and compassion, two traits that are terribly lacking in our nation right now. Even as her career changed and faraway deciders made it more and more about competition, she retained her hold on nurturing. Thank goodness, because American children need that more than anything.

In another room in that building, fellow first grade teacher Kaitlin Roig locked her little ones in a bathroom and pulled a bookshelf in front of the door. She told the children to be perfectly quiet. She told the children there were bad guys out there right then and that they needed to wait for the good guys.

“As their teacher, I’m their protector,” the teacher told Diane Sawyer.

“I told the kids I love them,” she said, “and I was so happy they were my students…I said anyone who believed in the power of prayer, we need to pray.” And she didn’t leave out the children who didn’t believe in prayer. She told them to think happy thoughts. Even in a time of extreme stress, her thoughts were on the individual needs of those children.

She said she wanted “I love you” to be one of the last things they heard, because she was sure they were all going to die.

As this teacher contemplated her own death, she didn’t think about what she needed. She thought about what those little ones needed.

When the good guys finally showed up, Ms. Roig had enough strength and wisdom not to merely throw open the door, but to insist that the police officer slide his badge under the door. Even then, she told him that if he were really a cop, he could get the door unlocked, and she refused to open it for him.

The children told her, “I just want Christmas.” One student in that tiny bathroom told her that he knew karate and could lead the way out.

I can close my eyes and see this teacher taking those little students’ faces in her hands when they started to cry, and I can see her smiling at them even through the horrific fear settling in her own heart.

These teachers are such wonderful people, such unheralded heroes. These are our nation’s last nurturers, and look at how we treat them. We build systems to turn them into gladiators of merit. We call them union thugs to advance political agendas.

Shame on us. Let the nurturers nurture.

Thank you, teachers across America, for your courage and your sacrifice. Thank you teachers of Newtown for caring for other people’s children when they needed you most. You all deserve the Congressional Medal of Honor.

There is no greater love than this, that a teacher would give her life for her students.

Keep nurturing.

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By | 2016-11-01T14:40:15+00:00 December 15th, 2012|Featured, From the Front Lines, Instruction&Curriculum, Uncategorized|13 Comments

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  1. Cynthia W. December 15, 2012 at 11:47 pm - Reply

    I am an educator in Chicago and have taught in one of the toughest neighborhoods known. Yet through it all, we manage to always find a way to "stay positive" for our kids; the students, that is. I have always been proud to be a teacher and have tried not to let the media spoil how I feel and what I do because I know I do it with passion and out of love. I am so proud of these teachers for their courage and strength to have been able to endure such tragedy. My heart bleeds for the lives lost…words can not describe the feelings in our guts yesterday afternoon when we heard of this senseless, evil act. Many of us sat stunned wondering what we would have done had we been in that situation…I can't even imagine. I tip my hat off to all of you at Newton. May God Bless you and may your community be healed.

  2. spouse2000 December 16, 2012 at 3:09 pm - Reply

    I call the union thugs – union thugs. The union is out for the union – not the students.

    • Valerie Pientka December 16, 2012 at 7:09 pm - Reply

      Unless you are a teacher, here is a tip from a teacher. It is not the time for your union bashing comments. We have heard your comments and we reject them. Until you walk in our shoes, keep your comments to yourself.

  3. Alyssa December 16, 2012 at 4:19 pm - Reply

    …spoken by someone unfamiliar with the teachers' union. Protecting teachers protects students.

  4. Larry Garrett December 16, 2012 at 7:16 pm - Reply

    Does a union thug wear baggy pants and carry brass knuckles? Let’s up the hyperbole one notch and call them union psychopaths. Union animals. Union spawns of Satan.

  5. Jaimee December 16, 2012 at 9:20 pm - Reply

    I'm a teacher and I believe that unions only serve to cripple us as individuals, and our students.

  6. kteacherfromDayton December 16, 2012 at 10:03 pm - Reply

    Just wanted to say thank you to Jake for your editorial. Teachers are given so little respect for their personal and professional commitment these days – morale is very low, but we give our all and do the right thing to be there for children. Such a shame that the character of some citizens of this great country has degenerated into the likes of the rudeness and ignorance of a couple of these posters. Don't know if kindness, intelligence and justice will eventually rule the day in our land, but I don't think I want to be around if it doesn't.

    • Lisa December 29, 2012 at 8:36 pm - Reply

      That's why we need to stick together. 🙂 Keep the faith!

  7. Krisan December 16, 2012 at 10:07 pm - Reply

    really? This is what you got out of the commentary- a call to bash unions? I'd tell you to get a heart, and some compassion- but I'll also defend your right to free speech- please pick an appropriate forum-

  8. tomholly14@gmail.com December 17, 2012 at 11:57 am - Reply

    Sherry, I have seen all the stories about these heroic teachers and I agree with you that they deserve the medal of honor!! You couldn't do more than what these wonderful teachers did! I have a 5 and. 10 year old grandson and a daughter in law who is a teacher and worry everyday that a horror like this could happen anywhere!!! Our teachers should be paid more and have more respect because they help mold our children and they know now so many times a school is the target!! When hearing about Vicki Soto I thought about you and Linda and all the teachers I know and am sure you all would have protected your students that way! We need to do away with automatic weapons and have also an armed police officer in every school along with their security system and treat all are children and teachers like GOLD because our children are more important than money! God bless those brave teachers and principle and psychologist! They saved lives by using themselves as sacrifice! Those little children are ALL now ANGELS along with their teachers! I know they ALL went straight to heaven in Gods arms!! I don't understand (?why???) little precious souls just starting out in life but their were a lot of children saved because of these teachers especially Vicky who used herself as a human shield to save her children!! A lot of heroes in this horrendous act of shooting babies with automatic weapons dozens of times each! I get sick EVERYTIME I see what happened and PRAY that the town of Newville survives this tragedy!! It's not God, it's a mentally disturbed human! We also need more mental health services for all of us! Just remember the world is PRAYING for your town with such LOVE and COMPASSION!!! All our prayers to everyone involved in such a senseless violent act and God bless everyone involved!! I look at everyone as heroes and pray your hearts someday will be HEALED!!! Holly/Tommy please God heal this town!!!

  9. Lisa December 29, 2012 at 8:28 pm - Reply

    Jake, thank you for honoring all teachers and students here especially those in Newtown. Yes, our conditions are our students conditions. We all have stories, from varying degrees, some extremely tragic and life threatening. Often times as teachers we are seen as powerful and super heros in our student's minds, yet we cannot overcome outside forces. I never thought teaching would be such a stressful profession. In the very least, it is stressful when my students come to school not having a meal at night. It is stressful when a loved one abuses or neglects their child, which is becoming more common within our country. It is certainly stressful and disheartening to read you are a target of politics and terrorism.
    My hope and prayer is that there be peace in our nation. May we not repeat our poorly misguided political decisions.
    Start listening to our teachers, respect our teacher organization.
    To ignore us is to ignore the lives of our children.

  10. Are More Gun Control Laws Needed? December 31, 2012 at 9:01 am - Reply

    […] light of the horrific tragedy that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut, it is only fitting to discuss gun control laws in our nation. Gun control laws were barely […]

  11. […] This is an older one, but I like it. -jk There were some amazing stories of human courage and compassion that came out of the horrors in Newtown, Connecticut. Read it! […]

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