The National Teachers Hall of Fame announced that a groundbreaking ceremony for its Memorial to Fallen Educators will take place June 13, and school bus driver Charles Poland is among the honorees.
The organization also recognized the principal, school psychologist and four teachers from Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., as well as a teacher from Columbine High School in Colorado.
More than 50 names will be etched on the monument shaped like a book constructed near the one-room schoolhouse on the Emporia State University campus in Kansas, according to the NTHF website.
“The 10-foot by 10-foot, black granite monument, with benches, walkway, illumination and landscaping will be a permanent tribute to those school personnel who have given their lives doing what they love — working with America's schoolchildren,” stated NTHF.
Executive Director Carol Strickland said organization officials want to honor courageous educators — including teachers, administrators, counselors, bus drivers and others — who sacrificed their own lives to protect the children in their care.
The idea arose after the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook in December, when a gunman killed 20 children as well as six staff members. A month later, Dale County (Ala.) Schools bus driver Chuck Poland was murdered by a gunman who boarded his bus and demanded two students as hostages. Before Poland was shot and killed, he tried to negotiate with Jimmy Lee Dykes and blocked his path while 21 children escaped through the emergency exit in the back of the bus. After murdering Poland, Dykes abducted a 5-year-old boy with autism and held him hostage in a homemade, underground bunker for nearly a week before FBI agents burst in, killed him and rescued the boy.
Last week ABC News and 20/20 aired exclusive audio footage from a video of the incident. In February, Judge William B. Matthews nominated Poland for the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The same week the Alabama Senate passed a joint resolution to rename a quarter-mile stretch of Highway 231 near the location of the shooting as the Charles “Chuck” Poland Memorial Highway.
“That was so tragic,” added NTHFs Strickland. “And we started thinking, ‘Well, there's more to it than just these incidents.’”
After seeking out other examples of American educators killed on the job, she found about 50. She said the Teachers Hall of Fame has raised about $40,000 to finance the monument thanks to the generosity of Pearson Foundation and Security Benefit Corporation. Yet the organization still needs to raise $160,000 to pay for upkeep and the concrete walkway, benches, lighting and landscaping.