Monument is dedicated at National Teachers Hall of Fame in Kansas
By Jean Conley
O utgoing MTA Vice President Tim Sullivan was among state education association representatives from across the nation who
gathered in Kansas on June 12 to honor educators
who have died in the line of duty.
Sullivan joined hundreds of family members,
dignitaries and officials at the National Teachers Hall
of Fame in Emporia for the dedication of a plaza
memorializing fallen educators. On the plaza, two
large black granite tablets shaped like open books
hold 113 names etched in gold letters.
Sullivan placed a flower at the base of the
monument as the name of Colleen Ritzer, a popular
math teacher at Danvers High School, was read.
Ritzer, who was slain at her school in October 2013,
was among the five educators from Massachusetts
whose names were read during the ceremony.
“Our loss of Colleen Ritzer in Massachusetts
is still vivid,” Sullivan said. “It is very emotional
to see the names of scores of educators — teachers,
bus drivers, education support professionals and
others — who died just doing their jobs. It makes
you pause and remember what we do every single
Four other Massachusetts educators’ names
are also etched on the monument. Their stories
underscore their dedication to their jobs and their
students, even in threatening circumstances.
n On Dec. 5, 2001, the Rev. Theodore N. Brown,
a family outreach counselor at Springfield High
School, was stabbed to death after telling a student
to remove the hood of his sweatshirt while he was
indoors. Brown was stabbed seven times in the chest
and stomach and once in the hand. He died before he
could be reached by emergency personnel.
n On Nov. 17, 1999, Maribel Gonzalez, a
classroom aide at German Gerena Community
Elementary School in Springfield, was kicked in
the chest by a fifth-grade student who had refused
to board his bus and who had gotten out of control.
Gonzalez, who suffered from asthma, was rushed to
the hospital but died two hours later.
n On March 27, 1997, David “Jake” McHugh,
a behavior modification specialist at the James F.
Sullivan Middle School in Lowell, died after being
kicked repeatedly in the head as he tried to break up
a fight between two students.
n On April 15, 1993, Carole Day, the school
nurse at Albert Ford Middle School in Acushnet,
was corralled into the principal’s office, along with
the principal and librarian, by a man wielding a
12-gauge shotgun. The man shot her in the back,
A mong the tragedies recalled at the dedication was the fatal shooting of 20 schoolchildren and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary
School in Newtown, Connecticut.
It was the shooting in Newtown that prompted
research and the decision to build an enduring tribute
at the National Teachers Hall of Fame, which was
founded in 1989.
State affiliates of the National Education
Association and the American Federation of Teachers
provided the names of educators who had died in
their states, and many made financial contributions
to help build the memorial. Educators from 36 states
Donations for the memorial have come from
corporate sponsors, foundations, retired teachers and
Carol Strickland, executive director of the
National Teachers Hall of Fame, emphasized that no
donation is regarded as too small.
“We want this to be a national monument built
by the people in America to honor these heroes,” she
said. “We loved the money order for $25.38 that was
sent from a kindergarten teacher for her students,
who collected change for several weeks for us from
their lunch money.”
Later additions to the plaza will include outdoor
touch-screen kiosks that will tell the story of each
educator and help visitors understand the purpose of
Donations may be mailed to the NTHF, 1200
Commercial, Campus Box 4017, Emporia, KS 66801.
Further information about The National Teachers
Hall of Fame and the memorial can be found at
The names of 113 educators — including five from Massachusetts — are etched in gold letters.
Photo courtesy of Emporia State University
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