Hearing Stories, Healing Hearts: An Educator’s Astonishing Story

The moment Staples High School guidance counselors heard about Friday’s shootings in Newtown, they offered to help.

Two days later, the entire staff — including the school psychologist and social worker — took shifts at the crisis and counseling center, in John Reed Intermediate School. They worked with students, teachers, family members and first responders to process the horrific tragedy.

Deborah Slocum, interviewed on "Good Morning Staples" today. (Photo courtesy of Mike Zito)

Deborah Slocum, interviewed on “Good Morning Staples” today. (Photo courtesy of Mike Zito)

This morning, on the student TV show “Good Morning Staples,” junior Marla Friedson interviewed several staffers about their experiences. Long-time guidance counselor Deborah Slocum told an especially riveting tale.

She sat with a woman who taught kindergarten at Sandy Hook Elementary School for 15 years. This year, she transferred to a different building.

Five of the children killed on Friday were hers last year.

She felt a tremendous range of emotions, Deb said. There was “survivor guilt,” for not being at the school when the tragedy occurred. There was “deep sorrow” for the youngsters she had taught.

And she worried about her own 11-year-old children. They know how close their mother was to her students. And they themselves are close in age to the boys and girls who were killed.

The woman wore a bracelet. “#1 Teacher,” it said. It had been a gift from her kindergarteners — and they’d made it themselves.

The woman told Deb more stories. She’d just called a close friend — still teaching at Sandy Hook but now in a hospital, recovering from injuries. She’d stepped into the hallway, and been shot in the foot. She went right back into her classroom, locked the door, and told her students she’d “stepped in red paint.”

She added, “Everything will be okay. You just have to do what I tell you to.”

Hannah Foley and Marla Friedson, hosting today's "Good Morning Staples." (Photo courtesy of Mike Zito)

Hannah Foley (left) and Marla Friedson, hosting today’s edition of “Good Morning Staples.” (Photo courtesy of Mike Zito)

It was an emotionally wrenching day. But as she helped the former Sandy Hook teacher process all that had happened, Deb realized something too. The teacher Deb was talking to kept referring to her students as “my kids.”

“Everyone I know in education talks about ‘my kids,'” Deb said.

“Teachers everywhere feel personal responsibility for students they encounter. It’s almost like being second parents.”

It was a gripping interview. But — like the great teachers in Newtown, and the wonderful counselor she is — Deborah Slocum took the opportunity to turn it into a teachable moment, for the students riveted to “Good Morning Staples.”

“Treasure the relationships you have with your teachers, and everyone else in education,” she said.

“You may not even realize how much you mean to them.”

(Today’s “Good Morning Staples” TV show also featured an emotional interview with 2 Newtown High School students, and insights by several guidance counselors. Click here to view the entire program.)

4 responses to “Hearing Stories, Healing Hearts: An Educator’s Astonishing Story

  1. Thanks for this post, Dan. What a heartwarming story, and so true. Having been a teacher for many years, I understand the bond you forge with students. I adopted each one into my heart for the year (or years) that I had them. The teachers at Sandy Hook are brave and wonderful, and should be honored for the extraordinary efforts they took to protect “their kids.”

  2. Wow. Interesting story but shouldn’t there be assumed confidentiality in a situation like that? It would be easy to figure out who the teacher was with all the identifying info.

    • I agree with the previous commenter. This story is not the counselor’s or the Internet’s to tell.

  3. Many teachers never know the impact they have on their students- It’s often not till we mature more fully that we realize how impactful a teacher was- and it is often to late to go back and tell them. I personally had an Art teacher( in elementary school) I will never forget and an English teacher (at SHS) that forever changed me.