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Newtown Principal Remembered as 'Warm,' 'Selfless'

Sandy Hook Elementary School Principal Dawn Hochsprung's niece and one former colleague say the shooting victim was a dedicated educator who put her schoolchildren first.

Sandy Hook Elementary School Principal Dawn Hochsprung was a warm, dedicated educator who was pursuing a doctorate degree in education when she was fatally shot Friday morning in a tragedy whose horrific details are slowly emerging.

Relatives have confirmed that 47-year-old Hochsprung was among the 27 people -- including 20 children -- killed at the school in a shooting spree whose cause and suspected gunman remain unclear.

Hochsprung’s niece, MaryAnn Suarez of Naugatuck, said her aunt devoted her life to the kids in her school.

“In every school she worked at, every teacher was her friend, she was every child’s friend,” Suarez said.

According to Suarez, Hochsprung is a married mother of two daughters and four grandchildren.

Details of the shooting are slowly emerging, and police have declined to identify the suspected gunman, citing an ongoing investigation.

At about 9:40 a.m. today, a shooter entered the elementary school and opened fire, officials say. Police say the gunman shot and killed himself and that 20 children and six more adults also are dead. Police are conducting a second investigation at a residence in Sandy Hook, a section of Newtown on the Pootatuck River.

Katie Singley, who met Hochsprung at a school in Bethlehem about eight years ago when the latter was appointed principal there, said Hochsprung also had worked as a teacher in Danbury and at Mitchell Elementary School in Woodbury prior to coming to Newtown around 2010.

Singley described her friend as a selfless and protective woman.

“Dawn, she was like your mother, your friend, your grandmother, your teacher, your protector, everything all in one,” Singley recalled. “She was the best person to have on your side.”

“I don’t really know what happened at the school when that shooter came in, but I know she would fight to protect those kids,” Singley added. “She was definitely the best woman for the job to be in charge today and I can picture her standing up to this man. I could see her fighting, doing anything to protect her staff and those little babies there. I think she died doing what she was put on this earth to do and that’s being in charge and protecting those kids.”

One schools official in nearby New York state -- James Langlois, who serves as District Superintendent of Putnam/Northern Westchester Boards of Cooperative Educational Services and had worked with Hochsprung -- said the deceased principal was "wonderful, happy" person, who was "full of energy," and who had a "bubbly personality." 

"She was clearly someone who loved what she was doing,” said Langlois, adding that he worked with Hochsprung while she was conducting academic interviews for her doctorate degree. “She'd light up when she talked about her work. It's a really sad loss."

"It was absolutely a delight to spend time with her,” Langlois added.

According to Suarez, Hochsprung was pursuing her higher degree in education in Albany, NY.

“It’s such a shame,” Suarez said. “She was so young.”

Religious leaders in Newtown are holding special prayer services Friday night.

[Editor's note: Katie Singley is married to Paul Singley, local editor of Oxford and Naugautuck Patches.]

Grumpy Guy December 15, 2012 at 01:43 AM
I knew her a little when we were in HS- she was a few years younger than me. What a sad, sad situation.
Rocky Vitale December 15, 2012 at 02:13 AM
When Dawn lived in Naugy, my wife babysat her daughters daily. Dawn was very involved in local schools and always ready to run programs for the parent groups. Gonna miss her.
Watts December 15, 2012 at 02:24 AM
Absolutely tragic. I had been watching this news all day and then later started to find out that the principle was Dawn. I went to HS with Dawn, had classes together, shared friends, etc. She was very smart even back then and I remember that she was more mature than the rest of us at that time. She was always happy and a very kind person, even back in HS. Despite not having seen her in decades, it was devastating to hear that this happened to her and the other staff and of course, the children.
Amanda December 15, 2012 at 02:57 AM
Words can not begin to describe the impact Dawn had on so many lives. Dawn was the principal at my kids school in Woodbury and helped us get through so many difficult times. She was a real person who truly cared about her students on a personal level and for that, I feel blessed to ha e known her. She will be sadly missed by the many lives she touched.
Dawn Czaplicki December 15, 2012 at 04:54 AM
I had the pleasure to have been friends with Dawn in high school we became closer when we were on the high school track team . Dawn was a mature and very smart young lady full of live and always had a smile on her face that could only warm your heart. The world has lost a wonderful women and heaven has gained an angel ,she will be missed by all but not forgotten, my thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends.
Nancy Sasso Janis December 15, 2012 at 09:51 PM
Details about vigil on Naugatuck Green: http://www.bobmezzo.com/index.php/2012/12/15/naugatuck-to-host-vigil-on-tuesday-12182012/
DrGrace J. Gniazdowska PsyD PhD December 18, 2012 at 02:21 AM
I am offering free private grief counseling to the families of victims of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Please contact me. drgraceg@sensualmentality.com or you may speak with me on yahoo chat graceg1971a I am free to come to your home (like Dr. Hank does on Royal Pains) or you may come to me. I am in Trumbull. Please contact me for information. Dr Grace

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