Can violence be prevented with kindness and compassion? This teacher says it’s a start.

Kaitlin Roig-Debellis had never felt more panicked than she did on December 12, 2012.

All photos courtesy of L’Oreal Paris.

At 9:30 a.m ., she was contributing her first-grade class in their morning meeting at Sandy Hook Elementary when she heard gunshots. “There was not a few moments of pause or reluctance, ” says Roig-Debellis. “I knew it was a weapon and I knew it was coming into our school.”

Roig-Debellis herded all of her students into the classroom’s minuscule bathroom. She employed a storage cabinet to barricade the door. She recalls are concerns that not all of the children would fit, and that she wouldn’t be able to save all of the children that had been entrusted to her care.

“I felt utterly helpless, ” she says.

Thankfully, Roig-Debellis’s class was rescued by a Swat team 45 minutes later. While she and her students were physically unharmed, many others at Sandy Hook were the working day, and the event wholly changed the teacher’s outlook on life. It robbed her of the person she’d been before the tragedy.

“My sense of safety and security were moved, ” she says.

When she appeared in the reflect in the weeks and months following the shooting, she couldn’t find the intensely independent person she’d been. She’d become afraid of everything.

“I realized that wasn’t a style to live, ” she says.

As an lecturer, Roig-Debellis knew what she had to do. In ordering to help herself and her students heal, she had to turn misfortune into a teachable minute.

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