Dawn Hochsprung Honored with NAESP’s Distinguished Service Award

Conference News Online – 2013

On December 14, 2012, Dawn Hochsprung, principal of Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, gave her life to protect her students.

On the cold morning of her memorial, a mile-long line of friends, family, and community members gathered, swapping stories about Hochsprung’s life. Regina Birdsell was one of them.

“In line at the wake, we cried, we laughed,” said Birdsell (pictured at left). “We were so proud of her.”

Birdsell, assistant executive director for elementary programs and services at the Connecticut Association of Schools, shared memories of Hochsprung at the conference’s Saturday morning plenary. At the session, the NAESP Board of Directors honored Hochsprung with NAESP’s Distinguished Service Award. Birdsell accepted the award on behalf of Hochsprung and her family.

Mark Terry, NAESP’s immediate past president, attended Hochsprung’s memorial, and he teared up when presenting the award.

“On behalf of the board and principals everywhere, please accept NAESP’s highest award,” he said. “Dawn serves as a model for all of us.”

The presentation of the award complimented the first part of the plenary, a presentation by Darrell Scott of Rachel’s Challenge. Scott’s daughter, Rachel, was the first victim of the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School. Rachel’s Challenge, his nonprofit organization, provides anti-bullying presentations in schools that promote compassion.

Following the two presentations, NAESP President Nancy Flatt Meador announced that a new sculpture honoring fallen educators would be installed at NAESP headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. The yet-to-be-named sculpture in the shape of a tree will bear 150 leaves engraved with the names of educators who have given their lives for their students.

Closing the session, Birdsell called on principals to remember Hochsprung’s service and dedication.

“Dawn’s last act spoke volumes about her as a principal,” she said. “Let us keep Dawn in our thoughts. Let the following statement guide us in doing the right thing: What would Dawn do?”

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