Hung on a building in the Connecticut town where 20 children and six adults were killed at an elementary school is a spray-painted sign with four words: “Hug a teacher today.”
It’s a testament to the teachers who sprang into action when a gunman broke into Sandy Hook Elementary School and opened fire. They hid students in closets and bathrooms, and even threw themselves in the line of fire. Some paid with their lives.
Their sacrifice was selfless and heroic, and most teachers say they would do exactly the same if they ever came face to face with a gunman in the classroom. At schools last week, many teachers got extra thanks from parents and students who were reminded in the aftermath of the Newtown, Conn., massacre of just how much they give.
“I really hope a lot of parents see teachers in a little bit of a different light about all that we do,” said Hal Krantz, a teacher at Coral Springs Middle School, about 20 miles north of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
That gratitude for teachers is a respite from recent years in which politicians and the public have viewed them as anything but heroes. Instead, teachers have been the focus of increased scrutiny, criticized for what is perceived as having generous and unwarranted benefits and job security.
(Next page: The public’s conflicted view of teachers—and where it has come from)