As we mark the third anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting our thoughts are with all of those affected by that tragedy. We remember the 20 students and six educators whose lives were cut far too short.
One teacher who lived through that horrible event is doing her part to help others who also find themselves facing dark times.
Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis and her first grade students hid in a bathroom and managed to emerge physically unharmed after the shooting. Roig-DeBellis could have reacted to that experience in many different ways, but she chose to move forward with her life as best she could, and she wants to motivate others facing difficult circumstances to do the same.
In the prologue to her book, Choosing Hope, Roig-DeBellis writes,
When you hear the whisper of death, life takes on a different meaning. Not a moment passes when I don’t recognize that it could have been us who didn’t make it out of the school that day. That all of my students and I did get out alive is, in my mind, nothing short of a miracle. I honor that miracle by not taking anything for granted…. Rather than consuming myself with the horror of what happened, I began focusing on the good that could be done, and how I might take part in collective healing.
Roig-DeBellis spoke to education students at UConn about her book and about why she chose to become a teacher.
“As a teacher, you are the difference maker in your students’ lives…you build this caring community within your classroom where everyone feels safe and welcome and part of the team. You are acutely aware that impacting and changing even one life a year is an immense gift,” Roig-DeBellis said.
Roig-DeBellis is not currently in the classroom, but she continues to focus on giving back and making a difference as the executive director of Classes 4 Classes. The nonprofit allows K-8 classrooms to sponsor another classroom in need, teaching children the power of kindness and compassion.
“My parents taught me two lessons that I carry with me to this day: the first is that we each have many gifts to give, and it is our responsibility to give them,” Roig-DeBellis said. “The second is that everyone has a story and we need to be good listeners in order to hear one another’s.”