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 wound
Resting placeUnion Cemetery Stratford
Fairfield County, Connecticut, U.S.
MonumentsVictoria Soto Elementary School
Years active2010–2012
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; when the students later ran 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]


In December 2012, Eastern Connecticut State University announced the creation of the Victoria Leigh Soto Endowed Memorial Scholarship Fund, awarded to students who aspire to become teachers.[18] In December 2012, residents started a petition to rename North Parade in Stratford, Connecticut, to "Victoria Soto Way."[7] On December 17, 2012, the Stratford High School Class of 2003 established the "Victoria L. Soto Memorial Fund" in her honor. The fund will use the donations made to help pay for the funeral services and for the creation of a memorial at Stratford High School and a scholarship fund in the name of Soto, a former classmate who belonged to the Class of 2003.[19]

On January 14, 2013, the mayor of Stratford proposed the naming of a local school as the Victoria Soto Elementary School, with construction starting in 2013.[20] The mayor's proposal was unanimously approved by the Stratford Town Council.[21][22] The mayor also stated that a fund will be set up to accept donations from those who want to contribute to a memorial, which may include a statue of Soto.[22]

In 2013, the Victoria Soto ACERO High School, located at W 51st Street, opened in Chicago, Illinois. It was designed by Wight & Co. The Victoria Soto ACERO High School is a public, charter school with grades ranging from kindergarten to the 12th grade.[23][24]

The City of Bayamón, Puerto Rico is planning to name a public facility after Soto,[10] whose paternal family was originally from Puerto Rico's second-most populous city.[25]

On February 15, 2013, Soto and the other five adult teachers and administrators who were killed were posthumously awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal.[26][27] The medal honors Americans who have performed "exemplary deeds of service" for their country or fellow citizens. The medal is commonly recognized as the government's second-highest civilian award and was presented to the families of the victims by President Barack Obama at a White House ceremony.[28][29]

The Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters organization created the "Victoria Soto Volunteer Award" in honor of Soto, who was a former Nutmeg mentor. On April 25, 2013, Ana Robles, a Nutmeg mentor, became the first recipient of the award.[30] In June 2013, a playground in Long Brook Park in Stratford was named the "Victoria Soto Memorial Playground" in her honor.[31]

In 2015, the Victoria Soto School was inaugurated and opened, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, in Stratford, where she attended high school. The school, which was named in her honor, serves students from pre-kindergarten through second grade.[32]

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. Retrieved January 9, 2013.
  10. ^ a b "Piden honrar a maestra asesinada en escuela – Vocero de Puerto Rico". El Vocero. 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". 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".
  20. ^ "Connecticut school named for slain Newtown teacher Victoria Soto – U.S. News". October 24, 2012. Retrieved February 15, 2013.
  21. ^ "Victoria Soto Namesake School: Connecticut School To Be Named For Hero Sandy Hook Teacher". Huffington Post. January 14, 2013. Retrieved February 15, 2013.
  22. ^ a b "Connecticut mayor proposes naming school after newtown massacre victim". October 1, 2006. Retrieved January 9, 2013.
  23. ^ Soto ACERO schools
  24. ^ Lee Bey, Southern Exposure: The Overlooked Architecture of Chicago's South Side (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2019), p. 78, photo on p. 81.
  25. ^ "Puerto Rico: Islands, Major Cities & Towns – Statistics & Maps on City Population". Retrieved February 15, 2013.
  26. ^ "Obama honors slain Newtown teachers". February 15, 2013. Retrieved March 13, 2013.
  27. ^ Matt Compton (February 15, 2013). "President Obama Presents the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal". Retrieved March 13, 2013 – via National Archives.
  28. ^ "Sandy Hook teachers to receive Presidential medals for heroism". NBC Latino. Associated Press. February 5, 2013.
  29. ^ 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.
  30. ^ says, WebVIRG::View Blog. "Latina 'Big Sister' to Receive Victoria Soto Volunteer Award –".
  31. ^ "See the Good in a Sea of Bad". June 24, 2013.
  32. ^ "Victoria Soto School Opens in Stratford".

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