National Memorial to Fallen Educators - Atlas Obscura

National Memorial to Fallen Educators

Emporia, Kansas

In the aftermath of the murder of six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School, a memorial was constructed to remember all the teachers, administrators and staff who lost their lives. 

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The National Memorial to Fallen Educators is a sorrowful sidebar to the story told by the National Teachers Hall of Fame (NTHF), which built it. The hall of fame celebrates exceptional teachers, annually honoring five prekindergarten-grade 12 educators with at least 20 years of teaching experience. In tragic contrast, the memorial lists the names of public and private school teachers, administrators, and staff who lost their lives while working in the United States. 

The black granite memorial was developed by Carol Strickland, then the NTHF executive director, after the murder in December 2012 of six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Connecticut, and an Alabama teacher one month later. The tribute was made a national memorial when President Donald Trump signed legislation sponsored by Kansas lawmakers. When the memorial was rededicated following federal recognition, a third block of granite needed to be added because 10 more names were to be engraved.

Through 2023, 187 people have been remembered by the memorial. Not all of the fallen were casualties of school violence. For example, Christa McAuliffe, a civilian astronaut, died in the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion in 1986. McAuliffe was scheduled to teach two lessons from the shuttle as part of the NASA Teacher in Space Project. Information about each one of the deceased is on the NTHF website.

The National Memorial to Fallen Educators was constructed next to a one-room schoolhouse that was moved to Emporia State University (ESU) in 1969. Known as Dobbs School, the 1873 structure is furnished as it could have appeared in 1895. A statue of Gertrude M. Edens stands in front of the schoolhouse. Edens received her lifetime teaching certificate from Kansas State Teachers College, as ESU was known in 1938, and taught for 45 years, including in a one-room school.

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December 12, 2023

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