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Nonnewaug High School's Chief News Source

NHS Chief Advocate

Nonnewaug High School's Chief News Source

NHS Chief Advocate

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How the Sandy Hook Tragedy Affected Staff at Nonnewaug

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Brynn Clampett
The “Be Kind” bulletin board outside the Nonnewaug library shows the acts of kindness that students have committed to doing, part of the commemoration of those who died at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

WOODBURY As the 11th anniversary of the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary School passed last month, we are reminded of not only the people who passed, but the emotional impact on our community and the way that it has affected our teachers today.

Lauren O’Brien, the newest math teacher at Nonnewaug, says that she knew two of the victims of the tragedy, which made it feel more emotionally real.

“I was living in Southbury and teaching in Middletown at the time,” O’Brien said. “When I found out about it, I recognized one of the names; one of the teachers was an older sister of a classmate of mine. Then I later found out that one of the kids was a baby that I babysat a long time ago. It was crazy that it happened so close to home, which made it feel so much more real, that it could happen anywhere, even to someone you know.

O’Brien says that she always has a plan no matter where she is, just in case.

“I’ve worked in three different schools since Sandy Hook, and I always have a plan based on wherever my classroom is,” O’Brien said. “It’s one of those things where I think about where I would go, what I would do with my kids, if I were alone, what I would do, and I always have a plan in the back of my mind.”

Leeza Desjardins, a longtime art teacher at Nonnewaug, says that she was one of the only teachers at Nonnewaug to know what was happening that day because it wasn’t confirmed yet by administration or authorities.

“At the time, we were allowed to keep [exterior] doors open,” Desjardins said. “My room was above the boiler room, and below the culinary room where the stoves were, so it was always hot. The doors and windows in my class were always open. After hearing about what was happening, I shut my door and did my own lockdown, just in case. I told the kids [in my class] what was happening. I told them, ‘There’s something going on, and I need to protect you guys.’”

Desjardins says that the events made her more conscientious of her surroundings, and she takes fire and lockdown drills more seriously.

“The first thing I always do whenever I go somewhere is look for exits,” Desjardins said. “When I go to a movie theater, I look for an exit. When I’m in the gym, especially when I used to coach [cheerleading], I would make sure my players looked for the exits so they always knew where they were. The events made me more conscientious of my surroundings.”

Science teacher Melissa Hodges, who lives in Newtown, says that after the old Sandy Hook Elementary School was demolished and rebuilt, going into the new building puts such a big impact on visitors.

“The new elementary school in Sandy Hook is beautiful; they tore the old one down, understandably,” Hodges said. “When you walk in there, you know why the building is beautiful. I think I’ve been affected by just walking in that building and knowing why it’s so amazing. There’s signed Broadway posters from the entire casts of Broadway musicals hung up in there, and when you see them, you know why.”

Hodges says that going through active shooter training, as scary as it is, is important for teachers to know what to do.

“Having to go through active shooter training every year is also something that came out of this tragedy,” Hodges said. “It’s something none of us enjoy doing, and it’s sad that we still have to think about what we would do. But it’s important for our whole school. It’s always better to be prepared.”

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About the Contributor
Brynn Clampett, Reporter
Brynn Clampett is a sophomore at Nonnewaug and writes for the NHS Chief Advocate. This is her first year writing for the Chief Advocate. Brynn does cheer and plays softball for the school. She enjoys writing about sports and the arts.
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