STORIES
Teachers Heroes

Victoria Soto

by Anita from San Diego

 ( (www.people.com(People))
( (www.people.com(People))

According to statistics from the Moms Demand Action Foundation, on average there has been a school shooting in America every other school day so far this year. A reminder of this was the tragic shooting that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Not everything related to this story is tragic, thanks to a heroic and selfless act of bravery by a schoolteacher who risked her life to protect her students. Her name was Victoria Soto. She was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut and lived in nearby Stratford. She graduated with high honors in both Education and History from Eastern Connecticut State University. Victoria was known as the "goofball' of the family and was loved by most everyone. She also had a reputation for being very dedicated to the Sandy Hook Elementary School, where she worked, and to her students, something that would become very apparent on December 14, 2012. It was on that date when Adam Lanza entered Sandy Hook Elementary and opened fire on two kindergarten and first grade classrooms. The first grade classroom was Victoria Soto's class. Finding out that something terrible was occurring in the school, Victoria quickly moved all her kids into a closet, just as the shooter was entering her classroom. At first she tricked the shooter by telling him that her kids were in the gym, but one of her frightened students panicked and ran out, at which point the shooter knew Victoria was lying. As the gunman opened fire on the kids, Victoria ran in front of her students to shield them from the bullets. Victoria Soto hasn't yet reached the status of a fully recognized national hero, but to those children, she was a hero they will never forget, not only because she risked her life to protect her students, but because she was killed by the gunman in the process. Her acts of selflessness, bravery by placing herself in danger in order to protect her children, and dedication to her job make her a hero and excellent role model for others to follow, and for that reason it is important that her story be told. 

Friends and family helped carry Victoria's casket ((www.latimes.com(Los Angeles Times)))
Friends and family helped carry Victoria's casket ((www.latimes.com(Los Angeles Times)))

Each hero has unique qualities that make them the hero that they are. In Victoria's case, she was a selfless hero, but also a beautiful person inside and out. She showed this through her beautiful personality and the way she treated others. At Victoria Soto's funeral, the Rev. Meg Boxwell Williams described her in the eulogy which he wrote: "'Quick-thinking, beautiful, selfless person,' who huddled her first-grade pupils into a closet and cupboards and hurried others to escape as a determined gunman invaded the school. 'Her last act was selfless, Christlike in laying down her life for her children,' Ms. Williams said in closing remarks." When the shooter came into her classroom, Victoria wasn't thinking about herself and how to escape. Her first priority was her students and how to keep them safe and alive. To be hero, you must help others in a tough situation even though it means that you are putting yourself at risk. As Ms. Williams mentioned in the eulogy, "'What she did was that she gave of herself without thinking of herself, but only of the children,' she added. 'God bless.'" Victoria easily could have hid herself in a closet, but she did not. Instead she unselfishly hid her students in the cupboard to protect them from the gunman, thereby exposing herself to danger. Her self-effacing act let many children live, and all of their families were so grateful to Victoria for keeping their children unharmed.

Her sister's reaction from hearing Victoria died ( http://www.businessinsider.com(Buisness Insider))
Her sister's reaction from hearing Victoria died ( http://www.businessinsider.com(Buisness Insider))

Bravery is not a part of everyone, but it was a part of Victoria. It takes a great amount of bravery to top Victoria's actions. Anne Amato wrote in her article Hundreds attend vigil for teacher: "She is credited with saving her students from the rampage of Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old shooter who forced his way into the school. Soto told her students to hide, then told Lanza they were all in the gym." Victoria had the bravery to stand up to the shooter, and lie about where her children were hidden. Most people in this predicament would have tried to hide themselves and pray that the shooter would just not harm anyone. Instead Victoria knew that was unlikely, so she tried to lead the shooter into the gym away from all her students. Ryan Ortiz, a family friend talked about how he didn't think he could be as brave as Victoria during the shooting. "'Mind-boggling what she had to go through,' Ortiz said. 'No matter how many times I sit at home and think of what I would have done, you just can't imagine being in that situation.'" Victoria acted so brave in this type of situation, that some people could not even imagine themselves doing the same thing as Victoria. Very few ordinary people could do what Victoria did, and that's why those people are considered heroes. It could have turned out much, much worse for the young students if Victoria hadn't stood up to the shooter, and lied to him about where her students were. Thanks to her unselfish bravery, those children get to live out their lives. Hopefully they will never forget about her.

Victoria Soto's first grade classroom ( (www.nypost.com(New York Post))
Victoria Soto's first grade classroom ( (www.nypost.com(New York Post))

One of Victoria's wonderful qualities was dedication. She put so much dedication into her job because her students were her pride and joy. Ms. Schiavone, Victoria's best friend explained all the great things that Victoria did for her students: "...recalled Ms. Soto's devotion to the profession - spending every evening working on lesson plans and designing poster boards - and the extra mile she went for her students. 'It does not surprise me at all that Vicki died protecting her kids,' Ms. Schiavone said." Since Victoria was such a dedicated teacher, her family and friends were not surprised at all when they found out that Victoria sacrificed her life just to save her students. Julie Lis-Marks, who graduated with Victoria from the same high school said: "'She always talked about becoming a teacher', she added. 'It was what she loved doing. She loved children.'" Everyone that had known Victoria knew that she wanted to be a teacher since she was a little girl. She finally got a job at Sandy Hook Elementary and worked there for 5 years. Victoria loved her job and died doing what she loved the most, which was teaching students and dedicating herself to them. Dedication is key to being a great teacher. Teachers must love their students and keep them as their first priority during their job. Victoria would go above and beyond just to make sure her students excelled in school, and that's what made her a special and dedicated teacher.

Today in America we have so few real heroes that when one appears and performs acts of true heroism, especially when the hero loses her life in the process, it is important to describe the story so that other ordinary Americans can be inspired to commit similar acts of heroism. Victoria Soto acted selfishly and without thinking of her own safety or life, when she instinctively protected her students as if they were her own children. She is the best example of a dedicated teacher because she acted only in the interest of the students, without considering her own safety. We can all learn a lesson from the sacrifice that Victoria made. Maybe we do not have to risk our life but at the at least demonstrate that we are thinking more about other people than ourselves, especially if our job is to protect other people who are more defenseless than us. That is what police and fireman do every day of their lives. Why can't we all make sacrifices for the benefit of others; there is no reason why we can't. I predict that as a result of Victoria's braveness, other teachers will risk their safety to protect their students, as if they were their own children. I hope that someday I will be able to perform a brave act like Victoria.

Page created on 4/14/2014 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 4/14/2014 12:00:00 AM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.