There is an unusual, little-known memorial in Kansas called the Memorial to Fallen Educators, and it is about to start adding names. There are 10: five teachers and other school personnel who died accidentally on the job during the past year, and five who were shot trying to protect kids from bullets, including some from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
The memorial is on the campus of Emporia State University — the site of the National Teachers Hall of Fame — and is constructed with blocks of granite that carry the names of people who gave their lives while working in schools. President Trump recently signed legislation designating the site as a national memorial.
The initiative is the brainchild of Carol Strickland, director of the National Teachers Hall of Fame. She developed the idea after the murder of six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012, and one Alabama teacher in January 2013.
“It was then decided the many educators who had lost their lives ‘in the line of duty’ needed to be remembered in a permanent way,” the memorial’s website says.
On Thursday, a re-dedication ceremony will be held at the site (as noted by Education Week), when these 10 names will start to be added to the granite, though a new block will be necessary to accommodate all of them:
- Ruth Berg, receptionist, Minnehaha Academy, Minneapolis, Minn., Aug. 2, 2017, natural gas explosion
- John Carlson, janitor, Minnehaha Academy, Minneapolis, Minn., Aug. 2, 2017, natural gas explosion
- Daniel Buesgens, buildings and grounds employee, Chaska Middle School East, Chaska, Minn., Jan. 8, 2018, fell from a ladder
- Richard Lee Proffitt, bus driver, Prince William County Schools, Bristow, Va., Feb. 5, 2018, struck and killed by another bus driver in the parking lot of the school transportation center
- Scott Beigel, teacher, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, Parkland, Fla., Feb. 14, 2018, school shooting
- Aaron Feis, security guard and football coach, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, Parkland, Fla., Feb. 14, 2018, school shooting
- Chris Hixon, athletic director, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, Parkland, Fla., Feb. 14, 2018, school shooting
- Jennifer Williamson, teacher, East Brook Middle School, Paramus, N.J., May 17, 2018, bus accident on field trip in Mount Olive, N.J.
- Glenda Ann Perkins, substitute teacher, Santa Fe High School, Santa Fe, Tex., May 18, 2018, school shooting
- Cynthia Tisdale, substitute teacher, Santa Fe High School, Santa Fe, Tex., May 18, 2018, school shooting
Each will be honored at the ceremony, where members of the Class of 2018 National Teachers Hall of Fame Inductees will plant two redbud trees.
More than 110 educators’ names already appear on the memorial, including civilian astronaut Christa McAuliffe, who perished in the Challenger Space Shuttle explosion in 1986. You can read about them here.
Some of the stories are fascinating. The earliest date on the memorial is 1763, when a teacher was killed during a fight between Native Americans led by Chief Pontiac and settlers who were attacking for a bounty promised by Pennsylvania Gov. John Penn. Here’s part of the write-up:
On May 7, 1763, a Native American alliance led by Chief Pontiac launched an attack against a British force near Detroit. This was the start of Pontiac’s War, a series of sieges and battles that lasted a full year and ended with the British using smallpox blankets to commit biological warfare against the natives.
It was during these hostilities that Pennsylvania’s Governor John Penn made a “promise of bounties to be paid to any man for Indian scalps.” Gangs of settlers took his word and began murdering and scalping Native Americans.
The natives retaliated with the first school massacre in what would become the United States on July 26, 1764. Three native warriors entered the schoolhouse of teacher Enoch Brown and his 11 pupils. They clubbed the teacher and 9 children to death before slicing off their scalps, with one painful exception. Archie McCullough was still alive when his scalp was removed, though the natives may have believed him dead when they left. McCullough crawled down a hill to the spring where the school collected their drinking water. He was found there by a passersby and they found the rest of the students a few hours later.
A few days after the incident, the teacher and children were buried together in one grave, which was not marked.
There is also one from 1867, a citation for teacher George T. Chesire of California. Here’s the write-up:
February 16, 1867: Knights Ferry, California, Mr. McGinnis was shot and killed by his daughter’s teacher, Mr. George T. Cheshire, after McGinnis threatened the teacher for expelling his daughter from school. When McGinnis’s son learned of this, he went to the school and killed the teacher.
Text from the Daily Alta California, Volume 19, Number 7084
“Terrible shooting affray at Knight’s Ferry — One Man Killed and another supposed to be mortally wounded.
Stockton, Feb. 16th- A terrible shooting affray occurred at Knight’s Ferry yesterday morning, which resulted in the death of one man, and very severely wounding another–Mr. McGinnis and Mr. George T. Cheshire. Cheshire was a school-teacher, and turned a daughter of McGinnis out of his school. For this, McGinnis sent the teacher word that he would horsewhip him. Yesterday forenoon McGinnis attacked Cheshire, when the teacher succeeded in getting him down two or three times, the last time telling McGinnis that if he attacked him, he would shoot him. McGinnis again approached Cheshire when the latter shot four balls from a revolver into the body of McGinnis killing him on the spot.
A son of McGinnis, soon after, shot the teacher, the ball entering the head of Mr. Cheshire a little above the right ear, passing through the brain.”
Mr. Cheshire passed from his injuries later that same day.
There are three names on the memorial from a disaster at the Bath School in Michigan in 1927: Emory Huyck, superintendent; Hazel Iva Weatherbee, third- and fourth-grade teacher; and Blanche Elizabeth Harte, fifth-grade teacher. The school was intentionally blown up with dynamite, causing multiple deaths. Here’s the story:
Bath Township, in Michigan, was one of those little farm towns, with a grain elevator, a small drugstore, and everyone knew everyone. Bath had years of debate on whether to continue with the system of one room schools or to consolidate to one area school. In 1922, the township voters approved the creation of a new school which would house grades 1-12. To pay for this new building area landowners, about 300 of them, would pay higher property taxes. When the school opened 236 students were enrolled from all over the consolidated school district.
On May 18, 1927 school began at 8:30am, a normal start to a Wednesday by all accounts. Children were catching up, getting to their classes and preparing for their day’s lessons. At 8:45 a small alarm clock sounded in the basement of the north wing of the school, triggering an explosion of dynamite and pyrotol placed in the school by Andrew Kehoe, the school board treasurer, and one of the school’s caretakers.
Andrew Kehoe had been angry about property taxes used to fund the school. It was believed he formed the plan to destroy the school at least 9 months in advance when he lost an election for township clerk. On the same day of the school explosion he burned down his farm, killed his wife, and then blew up his car, killing himself and five other people.
The death toll came to a staggering 45 individuals. Thirty eight were children, two teachers, the school superintendent, and several bystanders. In the aftermath, a large pile of dynamite was discovered under the south wing of the school. It’s timer had not gone off.
In Bath, at the Bath School Memorial Park, visitors can see the Cupola that was the only part of the central and partial north wing of the school that survived the explosion while the south wing was left fully intact.
And here is the write-up on McAuliffe:
Christa McAuliffe was a civilian mission specialist aboard the Challenger Space Shuttle, and died with the rest of the seven member crew when Challenger exploded 73 seconds after launch on January 28, 1986.
Christa McAuliffe graduated from [Framingham] State College, Massachusetts, in 1970 with a degree in history. A dedicated junior high school teacher (she taught history, social studies and civics), Christa McAuliffe was also a volunteer with her church, a Girl Scout Leader and a hospital and YMCA fundraiser.
Christa McAuliffe was scheduled to teach two lessons from the space shuttle. She was part of the NASA Teacher in Space project, selected as its primary candidate in 1985. She won out over 11,500 applicants; NASA officials were reportedly especially impressed with her course on “The American Woman” which she had developed and taught. Barbara Morgan was the backup “Teacher in Space” who also trained with NASA in the astronaut training program.
When Challenger exploded 73 seconds after takeoff, millions of horrified schoolchildren and adults were watching from schools, homes and offices worldwide.
Her husband Steve and their two children, Scott and Caroline, survive her.
Christa McAuliffe’s alma mater, Framingham State College, established an education center in her honor, the Christa McAuliffe Center.
Many schools and scholarships have been named in honor of Christa McAuliffe.