DAWN HOCHSPRUNG: Reflecting One Year Later

By Regina Birdsell, Assistant Executive Director

As we mark the one year anniversary of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, we reflect on the impact that Dawn Hochsprung, the charismatic and passionate principal of Sandy Hook Elementary School, has had on us all. The underlying beauty of this story is who Dawn Hochsprung was and how she continues to inspire. She was a role model as a mother, grandmother, wife, educator, leader, and hero. Dawn was a dedicated leader who inspired her students to reach their fullest potential by instilling in them the importance of lifelong learning. She was admired by her colleagues, students, and parents, particularly for her caring and nurturing nature. She often referred to her students as “her children” and wanted school to be a positive place and a safe haven.

When she first started her principalship at Sandy Hook Elementary, Dawn shared in an interview with her local paper, “I don’t think you could find a more positive place to bring students to every day.” Everything she did built on that premise. She exemplified a team spirit and personified the qualities of leadership. From dressing up as a book fairy and spinning in a poodle skirt to organizing book fairs and leading new curriculum incentives, she cultivated the school’s positive spirit. Dawn maintained an active Twitter account where she updated followers with news about the school. Her last Tweet expressed her excitement about an upcoming book fair: “Setting up for the Sandy Hook nonfiction book preview for staff…Common Core, here we come!”

Following in Dawn’s footsteps, let us all continue to keep our communities aware of all the amazing daily activities in our schools. The simple, yet impactful, words she lived by continue to resonate in school halls, on sweatshirts, wristbands, and even coffee mugs: “Be nice to each other; it’s really all that matters.”

As we implement programs and activities to foster positive relationships in our schools, let these words and actions guide us. When you are looking for inspiration, just think to yourself: “What would Dawn do?” The example she set continues to inspire. Her passion for education and learning lives on through the scholarships set up in her name. Let us remember and emulate how she lived her life, not how it ended.

Reprinted from the NAESP “Communicator” December 2013 / Volume 37, Issue 4