Marissa Schimmoeller is in her first year of teaching at Delphos Jefferson High School in Ohio. Following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which killed 17 people, she admitted she was nervous to face her students. There was one question she was dreading in particular, and it didn’t take long before a student asked it.
A freshman raised her hand and asked, “Mrs. Schimmoeller, what will we do if a shooter comes in your room?”
She recounted the moment on Facebook, writing:
“My stomach sank. I launched into my pre-planned speech about our plan of action. Then, I knew I had to say the harder part: ‘I want you to know that I care deeply about each and every one of you and that I will do everything I can to protect you. But — being in a wheelchair, I will not be able to protect you the way an able-bodied teacher will. And if there is a chance for you to escape, I want you to go. Do not worry about me. Your safety is my number one priority.”
According to Today.com, Schimmoeller was born with cerebral palsy. She realizes her physical limitations, and thus urged her students to save themselves first in the case of an emergency.
However, she recounted, after a few quiet minutes passed, another student raised her hand and said, “Mrs. Schimmoeller, we already talked about it. If anything happens, we are going to carry you.”
Hearing this from her young students moved Schimmoeller to tears. Here’s her post describing the conversation:
Even as Schimmoeller typed the story before posting it to Facebook, she couldn’t help but want to cry, writing:
“With tears in my eyes as I type this, I want my friends and family to know that I understand that it is hard to find the good in the world, especially after a tragedy like the one that we have watched unfold, but there is good. True goodness. It was found in the hearts of my students today.”
In the wake of this tragedy, there have been many stories of decency that proves human kindness still exists.
Take 15-year-old Anthony Borges, for example. When the Parkland shooter tried to enter a classroom, Borges risked his life by throwing his body against the door to save 20 of his fellow classmates inside. The shooter continued to fire through the door and Borges suffered five bullets in his legs and back. The teen is being called a “hero” for his bravery, quite appropriately so.
Borges’ father started a GoFundMe page to raise money for the surgeries his son will have to endure as a result of his injuries. The campaign has already raised over $500,000 for his medical care resulting from the Parkland gun violence.
Schimmoeller’s post about her students has received over 20,000 shares on Facebook.
“I think my post has touched people so deeply because of the goodness it highlights,” she told Today.com. “So often, when there is a tragedy, it is easy to feel angry and hurt. When I was in front of those amazing kids as they told me they would carry me out of our building, if, God forbid, we were faced with a situation like the one in Florida, it occurred to me that every child, every one of my students, is so full of light and goodness.”
Following the Parkland shooting, the New York Times asked teachers and school professionals to share advice for talking about it with young people. Clara Green, a social emotional learning coach in Atlanta’s public schools, shared an email she sent to a team of teachers, which read, “Many of your students may come to school with strong emotions and questions and we must provide a safe space for them to cope with this traumatic event.”
She also suggested “[b]eing honest with kids and share with them as much information as they are developmentally able to handle.”
So, it seems as though Schimmoeller’s open and honest approach is one that other education professionals would agree with. Yet it turns out, however, her students were the ones who taught her a lesson here.
How have you talked about the Parkland shooting with young people in your life?