OP-ED | The events of Dec.14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., were shocking and unthinkable. Twenty children and six adults, gunned down by a person who, at a mere 20 years of age, was barely out of childhood himself. There is little, if any, solace to be had in situations like this. There are no words we can say to ourselves that will make sense of this tragedy. There is only one thing about the horror of the shootings that I can look on with pride and admiration, and that is the brave actions of the teachers at Sandy Hook.
As the president of the Washington Teachers’ Union, each day I tell the public how valuable and irreplaceable our teachers are. Their importance in the lives of our children is an intangible commodity that most people spend little, if any, time thinking about. Now we are confronted with the heroic actions of the Sandy Hook teachers, who hid their students in closets and risked their own lives to usher students to safety. The work of these brave souls extended far beyond the requirements of their work day, and they certainly taught the greatest lesson that could ever be taught — how to lay down your life for your fellow man.
Recently, the WTU designed a T-shirt with a “W”on the front that resembles the “S” in the Superman emblem. The back of the shirt reads, “I teach for a living, what’s your superpower?” Little did I know that within months of acquiring these T-shirts, we would see shining examples of real life teacher-heroes who would place the safety of their students above their own lives.
Although Sandy Hook is the ultimate example of teachers putting the lives of their students first, WTU teachers place students first every day. Not only are they educators, they are parents, confidants, counselors, defenders and advocates for our children. Whenever WTU teachers wear their T-shirts, they should have a sense of immense pride that they are a member of such a noble profession. I also hope that whenever a teacher stands before a classroom full of students, they invoke the spirit of our heroic Sandy Hook teachers, who, in their final lesson, taught us all bravery, courage and self-sacrifice — a lesson worth learning this holiday season.
Nathan Saunders is the president of the Washington Teachers’ Union.
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