"She put those children first. That's all she ever talked about."
That's a quote taken from Andrea Crowell, as told to the Associated Press, about her friend Victoria Soto, one of the teachers and administrators murdered in the Newtown, CT, tragedy.
In my 20 years of consulting with schools, I've witnessed acts of bravery performed by school adults time and time again, but none as dramatic as shielding a classroom full of children while a shooter closes in. Soto's sacrifice is of a magnitude that all of us stand in awe of, and we'll forever mourn the loss of a remarkable teacher and human being.
As I started Boston's annual Jingle Bell Run this past Sunday, I thought of Soto and of the brave men and women who, every day, put children first as I bowed my head during a moment of silence for those who lost their lives in Newtown. With the threat of snow overhead and holiday music churning, I thought of these young lives that have been forever silenced by this kind of random violence.
The race was meant to be festive, happy; but a cloud lingered over everyone. Even as eight maids-a-milking passed by wearing white tutus, followed by multiple Santa Claus donning red hats and ringing bells, I couldn't shake the thought of teachers all over the country who, in the wake of this tragedy, will go forward celebrating the holiday season in their classrooms with snowflakes haphazardly cut-out by tiny hands, sing-a-longs and homemade presents for parents, gingerbread houses and hot cocoa, and how heroic they are as they nurture their students, our children.