Victoria Leigh Soto

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Victoria Leigh Soto
Soto in March 2012
Born(1985-11-04)November 4, 1985
DiedDecember 14, 2012 (aged 27)
Cause of deathGunshot wounds
Resting placeUnion Cemetery Stratford
Fairfield County, Connecticut
Known forDefender during the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting
AwardsPresidential Citizen's Medal (2013; awarded posthumously)

Victoria Leigh Soto (November 4, 1985 – December 14, 2012) was an American teacher who was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. After the gunman, Adam Lanza, entered the school, she hid her students in her classroom. When Lanza entered Soto’s classroom, Soto claimed that the students were in the gym room. Lanza then shot Soto, causing the students to run from their hiding places. She was reportedly shot four times by Lanza and died trying to shield them with her body.[1][2] She has since been hailed as a hero.[3][4][2] She is a posthumous recipient of the Presidential Citizens Medal.

Plans and petitions to honor her by name via scholarships, roads, and schools were announced in late 2012 and 2013.[5][6][7][8][9] The Stratford Town Council unanimously approved a resolution to name a school after Soto, which opened in 2015, and the city of Bayamón, Puerto Rico, birthplace of Soto's father, is planning to name a public facility after her.[10]


Soto was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, to Carlos Soto, a native of Bayamón, Puerto Rico, and Donna Fagan-Soto, of Irish-American descent.[11] Her father worked for the Connecticut Department of Transportation as a crane operator and her mother was a nurse at Bridgeport Hospital.[2] Her family moved to Stratford, Connecticut, and she graduated from Stratford High School in 2003. In 2008, she earned bachelor's degrees in both education and history at Eastern Connecticut State University. She then enrolled in graduate school at Southern Connecticut State University.[12]


On December 14, 2012, Soto was teaching her first-grade class at Sandy Hook Elementary School, when Adam Lanza made his way into the school, and began to shoot staff and students. After killing fourteen students and two teachers in the first classroom, Lanza entered Soto's classroom. Media reports state that Soto had hidden several children in a closet, and when Lanza entered her classroom, Soto told him that the children were not there and that they were in the school gym. When several children ran from their hiding places, Lanza began shooting at the students. Soto was reportedly shot trying to shield them with her body.[1][2][13] A photograph of Soto's sister awaiting news of her sister on her cell phone was taken by Associated Press photographer Jessica Hill and widely reproduced across the globe. Some news outlets labeled the photograph "iconic" and said that it has come to symbolize the tragedy.[14][15]


A memorial service was held on December 15, and funeral services took place on December 19 at the Lordship Community Church.[2] American musician and songwriter Paul Simon performed at the funeral services and sang "The Sound of Silence".[16] On December 20, she was interred at Union Cemetery Stratford, Fairfield County, Connecticut. The Connecticut State Police honor guard saluted Soto's hearse en route.[17]


Presidential Citizens Medal

In 2012, Eastern Connecticut State University created the Victoria Leigh Soto Endowed Memorial Scholarship Fund, awarded to students aiming to become teachers.[18]

In 2012, the Town of Stratford renamed North Parade, adjacent to town hall, "Victoria Soto Way".[7]

In December 2012, the Stratford High School Class of 2003 established the "Victoria L. Soto Memorial Fund" in her honor. The fund helped pay for funeral services, the creation of a memorial at Stratford High School, and a scholarship fund in the name of Soto, who had belonged to the class of 2003.[19]

In 2013, Acero Victoria Soto High School opened in Chicago, Illinois. The school is a public charter school with grades 9-12.[20][21]

On February 15, 2013, Soto and the other five adults who were killed were posthumously awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal.[22][23] The medal honors Americans who have performed "exemplary deeds of service" for their country or fellow citizens. The medal, the government's second-highest civilian award, was presented to the families of the victims by President Barack Obama at a White House ceremony.[24][25]

The Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters organization created the "Victoria Soto Volunteer Award" in honor of Soto, who was a former Nutmeg mentor.[26]

In June 2013, a playground in Long Brook Park in Stratford was named the "Victoria Soto Memorial Playground" in her honor.[27]

In 2015, Victoria Soto Elementary School opened in Stratford. The school serves students from pre-kindergarten through second grade.[28]

The city of Bridgeport holds an annual Vicki Soto 5K race.[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b staff, CTPost com (December 15, 2012). "Teacher died fighting for her students". Chron. Retrieved June 20, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e Planas, Roque (December 16, 2012). "Victoria Soto, Newtown Teacher, Emerges As Hero After Shooting". Retrieved December 21, 2012. Her mother, Donna, was a nurse at Bridgeport Hospital for 30 years and her father, Carlos, worked for the Connecticut Department of Transportation as a crane operator.
  3. ^ Pearce, Matt (December 19, 2012). "Sandy Hook teacher Victoria Soto is given a hero's farewell". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 27, 2015.
  4. ^ "'Light amidst the darkness': Heroic teacher Victoria Soto remembered". NBC News. December 19, 2012. Retrieved December 27, 2015.
  5. ^ Vignesh Ramachandran (January 14, 2013). "Connecticut school named for slain Newtown teacher Victoria Soto". Retrieved January 15, 2013.
  6. ^ Pujol, Rolando (January 3, 2013). "Petition seeks to rename street after Newtown hero teacher Victoria Soto". WPIX. Retrieved December 27, 2015.
  7. ^ a b Lambeck, Linda Conner (December 26, 2012). "Petition asks for a street named for Victoria Soto, a teacher slain at Sandy Hook". Retrieved January 7, 2013.
  8. ^ Victoria Leigh Soto Memorial Endowed Scholarship Fund. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
  9. ^ "Eastern Connecticut's Liberal Arts University "THE VICTORIA LEIGH SOTO MEMORIAL ENDOWED SCHOLARSHIP FUND"". December 14, 2012. Archived from the original on January 15, 2013. Retrieved January 9, 2013.
  10. ^ "Piden honrar a maestra asesinada en escuela – Vocero de Puerto Rico". El Vocero. Archived from the original on January 18, 2013. Retrieved February 15, 2013.
  11. ^ Delgado, José A. (December 18, 2012). "Cita con los ángeles de Newtown (Date with the Angels of Newtown)" (in Spanish). El Nuevo Dia. Archived from the original on December 24, 2012. Retrieved December 21, 2012.
  12. ^ "Victoria Leigh Soto (Obituary)". Newtown Bee. December 18, 2012. Archived from the original on February 9, 2013. Retrieved December 21, 2012.
  13. ^ Llanos, Miguel (December 14, 2012). "Authorities ID gunman who killed 27 in elementary school massacre". NBC News. Associated Press. Retrieved December 19, 2012.
  14. ^ El Nasser, Haya (December 16, 2012). "Woman in iconic photo is sister of slain teacher". USA Today. Retrieved December 27, 2015.
  15. ^ Roberts, Christine (December 18, 2012). "Iconic photo of woman's anguish before learning her sister died in the Newtown massacre is a reminder that 'kills,' Carlee Soto says". New York Daily News. Retrieved December 27, 2015.
  16. ^ Barry Paddock; Chelsia Rose Marcius; Corky Siemaszko (December 19, 2012). "Paul Simon sings at funeral of Sandy Hook heroine teacher Victoria Leigh Soto as Newtown lays to rest another hero school staffer and four slain students". New York Daily News. Retrieved December 19, 2012.
  17. ^ Ocasio, Keila (December 19, 2012). "'Sound of Silence' lays hero teacher to rest". Connecticut Post. Retrieved December 21, 2012.
  18. ^ "Eastern Announces Victoria Leigh Soto Endowed Memorial Scholarship Fund". Reuters. Archived from the original on December 30, 2013. Retrieved January 7, 2013.
  19. ^ "Vicki Soto's Graduating Class Establishes Fund for Fallen Hero Teacher". Archived from the original on February 27, 2013. Retrieved February 7, 2013.
  20. ^ Soto ACERO schools
  21. ^ Lee Bey. Southern Exposure: The Overlooked Architecture of Chicago's South Side. (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2019), p. 78, photo on p. 81.
  22. ^ "Obama honors slain Newtown teachers". February 15, 2013. Archived from the original on February 21, 2013. Retrieved March 13, 2013.
  23. ^ Matt Compton (February 15, 2013). "President Obama Presents the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal". Retrieved March 13, 2013 – via National Archives.
  24. ^ "Sandy Hook teachers to receive Presidential medals for heroism". NBC Latino. Associated Press. February 5, 2013. Archived from the original on November 21, 2018. Retrieved February 5, 2013.
  25. ^ Michael Melia (February 5, 2013). "Newtown Educators Slain In Shooting To Be Honored With Presidential Medals By White House". Huffington Post. Retrieved February 15, 2013.
  26. ^ says, WebVIRG::View Blog. "Latina 'Big Sister' to Receive Victoria Soto Volunteer Award –". Archived from the original on June 17, 2018. Retrieved September 8, 2017.
  27. ^ "See the Good in a Sea of Bad". June 24, 2013. Archived from the original on June 17, 2018. Retrieved June 24, 2013.
  28. ^ "Victoria Soto School Opens in Stratford". August 28, 2015.
  29. ^ Joseph Tucci. "What to know about the 11th annual Vicki Soto 5K at the Hartford Healthcare Amphitheater in Bridgeport". Connecticut Post, November 3, 2023.

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