A wreath was placed at the Memorial to Fallen Educators to remember the life of Kimberly Lynn Wester-Riddle, the teacher’s aide who was tragically killed on Dec. 2 in Knoxville, Tennessee, when two school buses collided. Her name will be etched in gold on one of the two black granite books that stand as a reminder that educators are often our children’s first responders and protectors from impending danger.
National Teachers Hall of Fame Director Carol Strickland expressed condolences to Riddle’s family, friends, and students when she said, “Kimberly Riddle died doing what she loved — working with young children, and we are saddened by this tragedy. Our Memorial to Fallen Educators, dedicated this past June, is a tribute to those heroic educators who have lost their lives while carrying out their duties as an education professional. There were 113 names on the two books when we dedicated the Memorial Plaza on June 12 of this year, and, sadly, we will now be adding another name.”
The first loss occurred in 1764 with an Indian uprising in Pennsylvania, and the most recent was Oct. 23, 2013, in Danvers, Massachusetts, when Colleen Ritzer, a teacher, was killed by a student. The impetus for the memorial was the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut, on Dec. 14, 2012, where 20 children and six educators lost their lives to a lone gunman.
“There was no way to memorialize all of these fallen heroes from the field of education on a national level,” said Strickland. “So the NTHF Board of Trustees started moving forward to build a national monument for them here in America’s heartland.”
Emporia is not only home to The National Teachers Hall of Fame — founded in 1989 — but is also the home of Emporia State University, which boasts one of the top five teacher preparation colleges in the nation.
“Emporia reveres education and educational professionals, so this is a perfect place for the memorial plaza.” she said. “As we approach the two-year anniversary of the loss of the Newtown Six (Rachel D’Avino, Dawn Hochsprung, Anne Marie Murphy, Lauren Rousseau, Mary Sherlach, and Victoria Soto), we are hopeful that Americans will remember their bravery and dedication as well as the legacies they left behind.”
Constructed near the one-room schoolhouse on the northwest edge of the ESU campus, the plaza consists of two 6’ by 6’ black granite books with names, dates, and states etched in gold lettering. Additionally, there are two granite benches, a bricked patio, and a donors’ wall which commemorate those individuals, companies, and organizations that helped to finance the $300,000-project. The natural limestone and tiered landscaping all add to the quiet and simple beauty of the plaza.
“Our goal is to honor these educators who sacrificed their lives for the profession they loved, and we will preserve their story and their memories at the memorial site, in the interactive kiosk, and online at our website: www.nthf.org,” said Strickland. “We want people to remember how important educators are in the lives of America’s children.”
Article re-printed from Emporia Gazette