Victoria Soto  Sandy Hook  Media stories

She threw herself in front of the gunman to save her students: Astonishing story of the brave teacher who died protecting children from 'deeply disturbed' killer

By Michael Zennie, Leslie Larson and David Mccormack

PUBLISHED: 01:48, 15 December 2012 | UPDATED: 22:06, 15 December 2012

A young teacher displayed astonishing bravery and sacrificed her life saving as many children in her first grade class as she could after she came face-to-face with gunman Adam Lanza.

Victoria Soto, 27, had worked at Sandy Hook Elementary for five years. Her final moments were spent ushering her students into a closet when Lanza entered her classroom and she tried her best to shield the children from the evil gunman.

Soto was a highly regarded young teacher who was popular with her pupils. One young student, Jacob Riley, told Mailonline that Soto was known for chewing gum in class - something not usually allowed for teachers. He said he had often teased her about her habit and she had playfully teased him back.

Passion: Victoria Soto had a passion for education and always knew she wanted to teach


Selfless: Victoria Soto threw herself in front of her first grade students and was killed protecting them

'She took her kids, put them in the closet and by doing so she lost her life protecting those little ones,' Soto's cousin, Jim Wiltsie, told ABC News.

'She was found huddled over her children, her students, doing instinctively what she knew was the right thing. I'm just proud that Vicki had the instincts to protect her kids from harm,' he continued.

'It brings peace to know that Vicki was doing what she loved, protecting the children and in our eyes she's a hero,' he added.

A deeply distraught 10-year-old boy who is a former student of Miss Soto described her as 'really nice and funny.'


Four teachers were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School trying to save their students from gunman Lanza, the son of a woman who worked at the school.

The other three teachers have been identified as principal Dawn Hochsprung, 47, school psychologist Mary Sherlach, 56, and Lauren Rousseau, 30. Devastated friends of Rousseau said she was having 'the best year of her life' after landing her first full-time teaching job only months ago.

Twenty-eight people died in the shooting rampage, including 20 young children between the ages of five and ten, alleged gunman Adam Lanza, who took his own life, and his mother, who was shot before the school massacre.

When Lanza started firing at the school in suburban Newtown, Connecticut, some teachers dove under tables - but Mrs Hochsprung and Mrs Sherlach didn't hesitate.

Hero: Vicki Soto, 27, was trying to shield her first grade students from the gunman when she was shot

VIDEO: 'Incredible acts of heroism': Superintendent praises teachers' bravery... 

VIDEO: Vicki Soto's cousin, Jim Wiltsie, tells ABC News about her courage... 

Murderer: Adam Lanza, killed himself after murdering more than two dozen others, including 20 school children

They ran into the hallway to confront the danger and were murdered execution-style as a result.

Little did she know that Adam had already killed his mother at the home they shared nearby. He took three of her guns and used her car to drive to the school.

Diane Day, a school therapist, told the Wall Street Journal that she and several other teachers were in a meeting with Mrs Hochsprung and Mrs Sherlach when the shooting began.

'We were there for about five minutes chatting and we heard, "pop pop pop,"' she said. 'I went under the table.'

The principal and the school psychologist had other ideas. They jumped out of their seats and ran toward the sound of the gunfire.

'They didnít think twice about confronting or seeing what was going on,' Ms Day said.

Rabbi Shaul Praver told MSNBC that Mrs Hochsprung and Mrs Sherlach were killed execution-style.

Tributes for all educators poured in on Friday night. Former school superintendent John Reed told the Connecticut Post that Mrs Sherlach was warm and cared deeply for her students.

'If there ever was a person, by qualifications and personality, to work with children, to be a school psychologist, it was Mary,' he said.

She was married with two grown daughters in their 20s and enjoyed gardening, reading and the theater, according to her school biography.

Murdered: Principal Dawn Hochsprung, left, and school psychologist March Sherlach, right, were killed after confronting the Connecticut school gunman

Murdered teacher Lauren Rousseau and Nancy Lanza, the mother and first victim of killer Adam Lanza


Devastation: Sandy Hook Elementary School, home to 700 students, was attacked by a crazed gunman on Friday


Friends and neighbors said it was immediately clear to everyone she knew that she loved her students and her school.

'I donít think you could find a more positive place to bring students to every day,' she had recently told a local newspaper.

Another tale of heroism came from an eight-year-old student who said a teacher pulled him from the hallway as bullets rang out.

'I saw some of the bullets going down the hall that I was right next to and then a teacher pulled me into her classroom,' the boy told CBS News.

'It sounded like someone was kicking a door,' he said of the piercing sound of the gunfire.

His relieved mother agreed, saying that the teacher saved her son's life.

Mourning: Newtown residents turned out for memorial ceremonies on Friday night across the city - including at Lima Roman Catholic Church


Saved: This eight-year-old student said a teacher pulled him from the hallway into her classroom as bullets rang out