They sacrificed themselves to save the children: The three selfless teachers gunned down trying to protect pupils from ‘deeply disturbed’ Adam Lanza as he massacred 26 at Connecticut school
By MICHAEL ZENNIE and LESLIE LARSON
Three teachers murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School all died heroes trying to save their students from a gunman who they recognized as the son of a kindergarten teacher there.
Authorities have identified principal Dawn Hochsprung, 47, school psychologist Mary Sherlach, 56, and 27-year-old Victoria Soto, a young first grade teacher, as three of the eight adults found dead on Friday.
Twenty-eight people died in the shooting rampage, including 20 young children between the ages of five and ten, alleged gunman Adam Lanza, who took his own life, and his mother, who was shot before the school massacre.
MailOnline can now reveal that Miss Soto sacrificed herself to save her students – throwing her body in front of the young children.
When Lanza began started firing at the school in suburban Newtown, Connecticut, some teachers dived under tables – but the Mrs Hochsprung and Mrs Sherlach never hesitated.
They ran into the hallway to confront the danger – and were murdered execution-style as a result .
The New York Times reports that Mrs Hochsprung buzzed Lanza into the school, bypassing the newly-installed security system – recognizing him as the son of Nancy Lanza, a teacher there.
Little did she know that Adam had already killed his mother at the home they shared nearby. He took three of her guns and used her car to drive to the school.
Diane Day, a school therapist, told the Wall Street Journal that she and several other teachers were in a meeting with Mrs Hochsprung and Mrs Sherlach when the shooting began.
Murdered: Principal Dawn Hochspring, left, and school psychologist March Sherlach, right, were killed after confronting the Connecticut school gunman
‘We were there for about five minutes chatting and we heard, “pop pop pop,”‘ she said. ‘I went under the table.’
The principal and the school psychologist had other ideas. They jumped out of their seat and ran toward the sound of the gunfire.
‘They didn’t think twice about confronting or seeing what was going on,’ Ms Day said.
Rabbi Shaul Praver told MSNBC that Mrs Hochsprung and Mrs Sherlach were killed execution-style.
Tributes for all educators poured in on Friday night.
A deeply distraught 10-year-old boy is a former student of Miss Soto, who had taught at the school five years, said she was ‘really nice and funny.’
The woman’s cousin, Jim Wiltsie, told ABC News that police said the 27-year-old was trying to shield her students and usher them into a closet when she came face to face with the gunman.
‘She put herself between the gunman and the children and that’s when she was tragically shot and killed,’ Mr Wiltsie said.
‘I’m just proud that Vicki had the instincts to protect her kids from harm,’ he continued.
‘It brings peace to know that Vicki was doing what she loved, protecting the children and in our eyes she’s a hero,’ he added.
Jacob Riley told MailOnline Miss Soto liked to chew gum in class – something is not usually allowed for teachers. He said he often teased her about her habit – and she playfully teased him back.
She was popular with all the students, the young boy said.
Former school superintendent John Reed told the Connecticut Post that Mrs Sherlach was warm and cared deeply for her students.
‘If there ever was a person, by qualifications and personality, to work with children, to be a school psychologist, it was Mary,’ he said.
She was married and half two grown daughters in their 20s and enjoyed gardening, reading and the theater, according to her school biography.
Mrs Hoschspring was divorced, but happily married to her second husband, tweeted dozens of pictures of her school.
Friends and neighbors said it was immediately clear to everyone she knew that she loved her students and her school.
‘I don’t think you could find a more positive place to bring students to every day,’ she told a local newspaper recently.
Another tale of heroism came from an eight-year-old student who said a teacher pulled him from the hallway as bullets rang out.
‘I saw some of the bullets going down the hall that I was right next to and then a teacher pulled me into her classroom,’ the boy told CBS News.
‘It sounded like someone was kicking a door,’ he said of the piercing sound of the gunfire.
His relieved mother agreed, saying that the teacher saved her son’s life.