President Obama next week will honor the six Sandy Hook Elementary School teachers and administrators who were killed while trying to protect their students during December's massacre in Newtown, Conn.

The six slain adults will posthumously receive the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal, one of the highest honors bestowed by the president, according to a White House official. During a Feb. 15 ceremony at the White House, Obama will present the honors to surviving family members, the official said.

The medal recipients are Sandy Hook teacher Rachel D'Avino, principal Dawn Hochsprung, teacher Anne Murphy, teacher Lauren Rousseau, psychologist Mary Scherlach and teacher Victoria Soto. The six educators and 20 students were shot and killed Dec. 14.

The Presidential Citizens Medal, awarded annually and recognized as the second-highest civilian award by the government, recognizes U.S. citizens "who have performed exemplary deeds of service for their country or their fellow citizens," according to published White House criteria.

The announcement comes as Obama has begun a public relations effort to pressure Congress to pass a broad series of measures aimed at reducing the nation's gun violence.

The news was first reported Tuesday afternoon by the Connecticut Post and later confirmed by a White House official.