12/17/2012 06:24 pm ET Updated Feb 16, 2013

Lessons From the Teacher Heroes

Pop was a teacher when I was a kid. My brothers and I watched him work late into the night grading papers and writing college recommendations. He visited his students' families when they were in trouble, helped kids find their first jobs through a huge network of employers he developed, and held back tears of joy at their graduations. And when I think of the teachers, school staff and coaches who have helped shape my own kids' lives, the first thought that comes to mind is gratitude for their sacrifices. My kids have flourished in ways that simply would not be possible if these people had not come into our lives.

On Friday, the heroism and generosity of teachers and school staff in Newtown became apparent to us all. One barricaded her little ones in a bathroom and repeated "I love you" over the sound of gunfire, so, if worse came to worse, those would be the last words the children would hear. Others ran into the hallway, toward the gunman, and grabbed children out of the path of danger. Dozens put themselves between the gunfire and the children in their care. Six adults lost their lives, including a school psychologist set to retire this year after a long career mending little hearts and minds.

Amidst the worst darkness any of us can remember in a long while, teachers and school staff in Newtown showed the world what it means to be generous. They taught us what it means to sacrifice for children. And most of all, they revealed to us what a hero looks like.

Twenty little ones died this week in one of the most heartbreaking mornings in our nation's history. It is so important for us to remember that hundreds of children survived because of the heroic, generous, sacrificing acts of their protectors. Let's try very hard with one another and with our children to focus on their beautiful example and not let their lessons and signs be lost in our grief.