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Memorial to honor fallen educators

Colleen Ritzer Funeral Services

Hundreds of educators formed an “honor guard” outside the church on Oct. 28, 2013, at the funeral of Danvers teacher Colleen Ritzer.

The names of Danvers teacher Colleen Ritzer and Springfield counselor Theodore Brown will be etched into a monument dedicated to fallen educators, along with the names of dozens of others who have died violently while working in U.S. schools.

The National Teachers Hall of Fame conceived of the Memorial to Fallen Educators after the tragedy a year ago at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in which 20 young children and six educators were gunned down.

The monument, being built on the campus of Emporia State University in Emporia, Kan., will include the names of more than 60 educators. The memorial is scheduled to be dedicated in June 2014.

MTA President Paul Toner said the idea for the monument stems from a desire to honor “those who made the ultimate sacrifice” while doing what they loved — teaching children. “Their dedication to students — and in several instances their instinct to put themselves in harm’s way to protect their students— deserves a permanent memorial,” Toner said.

Ritzer, a math teacher at Danvers High School, was found slain outside her school on Oct. 23. One of her students is accused in her killing. In December 2001, Brown, a Pentecostal minister and guidance counselor at an alternative high school in Springfield, was stabbed to death. A student at the school was convicted in that killing.

The monument will resemble a six-foot-by-six-foot black granite book. A donors’ wall, benches and walkway will complete the memorial plaza. It will be the only national monument to fallen educators anywhere in America.

In a letter to educators on Dec. 15, NEA President Dennis Van Roekel said the recent deaths “have continued to spark the discussion over violence in our schools, but they have also ignited the passion of Americans to honor the unsung heroes” who died while working with children.

“We think it is time to reflect on the educators’ lives lost in our schools through the decades,” he said.

The Teachers Hall of Fame is encouraging classrooms to display jars to collect “change to make a change,” then turn the coins into a check and send it, along with a photo of classroom students, to the NTHF Memorial Fund, 1200 Commercial, Campus Box 4017, Emporia, KS 66801. Each school participating will receive a certificate and will have its photo on the NTHF website.

More information is available from Carol Strickland, executive director, National Teachers Hall of Fame, at 620.341.5660, or by e-mailing nthfdirector@emporia.edu.