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Teacher from Stratford Died 'Protecting Little Ones'

Victoria 'Vicki' Soto, a Stratford High School graduate, is being memorialized across the nation as a hero for her attempts to save her students during Friday’s mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown.

Victoria "Vicki" Soto loved teaching at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

Before becoming a first-grade teacher she interned at the school for two years.

"This is my third year as a first grade teacher at Sandy Hook School! I absolutely love teaching first grade!" begins her profile on the school's website.

The 27-year-old certainly seemed to have the energy to match her adoring students.

But that career was tragically cut short Friday.

Soto died trying to save her students from the hands of a shooter whose unthinkable killing spree Friday morning left 20 children and six adults dead, before he turned the gun on himself.

James Wiltsie, a cousin of Soto, spoke to ABCNews Friday night. He shared with the nation how his cousin's instincts took over to keep her kids alive.

"From what we've been told, my cousin Vicki and her first-grade classroom, took her students and huddled them into a closet and then shielded the children in the closet trying to protect them," Wiltsie said. "By doing so she lost her life protecting those little ones."

"Her life's dream was to be a teacher," Wiltsie told ABCNews.

Over the last 12 hours a photo of Soto posted on Facebook has been spreading rapidly on the social network. The photo (attached in gallery above) is accompanied with the following message:

This is Victoria Soto, and although I didn't know her, she is my hero. I don't know too much about her, but I know a lot of people who do know her and she's amazing. Victoria was a Stratford high graduate and only 27. She was killed today after she hid her first graders in closets and cabinets and told the shooter they were in the gym. He killed her and not one of her children were harmed. I have never been more proud to be from Stratford or to be a teacher. God bless Victoria, her family and friends, and all of those who were involved today in anyway. Victoria is a true hero.

As of 11:30 a.m. Saturday, the photo was shared by nearly 15,000 Facebook accounts.

A Stratford resident who said she is neighbors with Soto's mother emailed Patch this morning, proposing an idea to help the family.

"I am not actually very familiar with the family, but I would like to help organize a collection to help with the cost of the funeral," she wrote.

Stratord Patch is following up with this resident to see if we can make that happen.

Paula Vaiana December 15, 2012 at 05:21 PM
I think all schools should have a dress down day, in Stratford when a child dresses out of uniform for the day the parent is asked to donate a dollar. In this case I think parents of possible should donate 2 dollars for the families. The soto and ALL the other families are in my prayers .
Jorge Figueroa December 15, 2012 at 05:45 PM
They should name a school after her, that's bravery and love, that allowed her to take such action. She's my hero,
Judith Castaneda December 15, 2012 at 07:23 PM
This is one story that gives a little light to this horrific tragedy. The SHS class of 2003 is in the process of setting up a Memorial fund for Vicki. Donations will be accepted soon.
Jason Bagley (Editor) December 15, 2012 at 07:50 PM
Thanks for sharing that news, Judith. It is uplifting to hear. The Sotos church is also setting up a fund, to pay for funeral services. Read about it in this article, Family of Vicki Soto, Teacher Who Died for Students, Numb but Coping: http://stratford.patch.com/articles/family-of-vicki-soto-teacher-who-died-for-students-numb-but-coping
sherry December 15, 2012 at 08:35 PM
What a wonderful teacher, person, friend,daughter, and soul. I WISH there were more like her. May God bless her and her family.
Stephanie Englehart Hansgen December 15, 2012 at 09:21 PM
There are more like her. You just don't know us; we shouldn't need tragedies to find us.
trish December 16, 2012 at 09:05 AM
Stephanie your rude! This isnt about teacher of the year award. I have 2 teachers in my family who love their jobs and would never make such a remark!
Marie December 16, 2012 at 02:19 PM
This lady was a hero!
Janet Kemp December 16, 2012 at 03:35 PM
Words are not sufficient to express this gratitude and this loss. All who wish could make prayer shawls for the family. - Janet Kemp
Jayne Mullins December 16, 2012 at 03:51 PM
@Stephanie Thank you for your hard work and dedication. As a mom and now a grandmother of 4 wee ones (6, 4, 2 on the 20th, and baby Emmy 7 weeks) I know those 'formative' years are the years during which we shape core values and educational disciplines. So thank you....I know too often we take teachers for granted and we ought to bother to thank others for the job they're doing. Has anyone thought about the dispatchers who took those frantic 911 calls? You don't hear about them being thanked either. I get where you are coming from. I say that because my daughter is a dispatcher in Wisconsin--daily she is an invisible hero. Same for the gkids daddy who's a mailman-no thanks delivering mail during lightening storms and blizzards. I am a member of 'The Be Kind Project'....look into that. It was started by a teachers group in OK and very active in Arizona. Practice Peace.
Dennis Pratt December 16, 2012 at 04:54 PM
This Lady should recieve the Metal of Honor!!!!!!!!!
Tahisha Wilson December 17, 2012 at 07:38 AM
my prayers is with her family an awesome teacher
Theresa December 19, 2012 at 05:26 PM
My prayers are also with her family and those who knew and worked with her, as with all those lost in this tragedy. Not to belittle what she did for her students, and I truly mean that, but to address people in Stratford who have children attending school here and who are concerned about their child's safety, there is not one teacher that I have met -- be it Lordship School or Franklin, Wooster or Flood -- that would not do the same to protect the children they teach. Caring for children is why they entered the profession in the first place. Miss Soto represented all that is good and noble in our educators.
snorkel December 19, 2012 at 08:53 PM
Wow, a true hero, I have no other words as I am crying my eyes out.

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