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Connecticut school named for teacher who died in Sandy Hook massacre

Connecticut school named for teacher who died in Sandy Hook massacre
Victoria Soto, a first-grade teacher at the Sandy HookElementary School, was killed inthe Newtown, Conn., shooting on Dec. 14, 2012. (Hartford Courant)

Nearly three years after a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, a new school in Stratford, Conn., has been named after a teacher who died trying to protect her first-grade students.

The Victoria Soto School was dedicated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony held on Friday.

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"To see her name on this building is so special," Donna Soto, Victoria's mother, said in an email to the Los Angeles Times on Saturday. "One thing I always feared was 'people will forget.'

"Now her name lives on in the lives of all the children and teachers that attend this school."

Soto, 27, of Stratford, was in her third year of teaching first grade when Adam Lanza, 20, shot his way into the elementary school and went to her classroom. As the gunman approached, Soto hid her students in a closet.

She was one of 26 victims, including five other educators and 20 first-graders, who were killed in the shooting.

Dr. Janet Robinson, Stratford superintendent of schools, praised the teacher during the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

"The natural light and colors reflect the joy of learning that will now be the legacy of Victoria Soto for generations of Stratford children,"  Robinson said in comments reported by WTNH, a local television station.

"Victoria defines the word 'hero,' and this school ensures that her sacrifice is never forgotten," Stratford Mayor John Harkins said, the station reported.

In a nod to Soto's favorite animal--the flamingo--school staffers wore pink shirts bearing the school's name on their sleeves.

Pink chairs, flamingo tables, stuffed animals and pictures of the large bird adorned the school.

"When we were asked about naming a school after her it was a kind gesture from our town that grew into such an honor I cannot even express in words," Donna Soto said in her email.

She said that her daughter had wanted to be a teacher since she was 3, and said the position at Sandy Hook Elementary School was Soto's "dream job."

"Watching the school being built was one thing, but walking the halls was a different emotion all together," she said. A playground and street in the town of Stratford also have been named after her daughter.

Prior to the dedication, Soto's family asked for a moment of silence to remember Alison Parker and Adam Ward, two television journalists who died on Wednesday in an on-air shooting near Roanoke, Va.

"People say in time it gets better but for us it has not," Donna Soto said. "Each time there is another shooting we relive the worst time of our lives."

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Twitter: @natalieschachar

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