Stratford High graduate Victoria Soto, who died protecting her students during a gunman’s massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, was one of six educators from the school posthumously honored at the White House Friday, Feb. 15.
President Barack Obama presented the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal — the nation’s second-highest civilian honor — to Soto, Rachel Davino, Dawn Hochsprung, Anne Marie Murphy, Lauren Rousseau, and Mary Sherlach.
Those six, along with 20 6- and 7-year-old first graders, were gunned down inside the school on Dec. 14, 2012.
Soto’s parents, Carlos and Donna Soto, accepted the medal from Mr. Obama.
Staff members from Sandy Hook Elementary School and other Newtown schools represented their late colleagues at the White House. Attending the ceremony were:
• Tom Kuroski, Newtown High School teacher and president of the Newtown Federation of Teachers.
• Joanne Didonato, secretary to Sandy Hook Principal Dawn Hochsprung and president of the Newtown Federation of Education Personnel. Didonato was out of the building on Dec. 14, but since the shooting she has been central to preparing the new school for students and employees, according to the American Federation of Teachers.
• Kris Feda, Sandy Hook teacher and math/science specialist. Feda was in the main office in a parent meeting with principal Hochsprung, psychologist Mary Sherlach, and lead teacher Natalie Hammond, who was injured. Feda is the teacher who others said took charge to move students and staff from the school to the firehouse. (Hammond was a guest of Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn., at the State of the Union address on Tuesday.)
• Rick Thorne, Sandy Hook custodian, who went through the school during the shooting, locking any open doors and making sure hallways were clear and that staff and students were safely in their classrooms.
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten accompanied the four Newtown school representatives to the ceremony.