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Mesa elementary school teacher shattered by Uvalde, Texas shooting

Theresa Coe teaches kindergarten through 6th grade, so information and stories about the Uvalde fourth-graders who died remind her so much of her own students.
Published: May. 25, 2022 at 7:41 PM MST
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MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- The Uvalde shooting has weighed on the shoulders of elementary school teachers here in Arizona, some who have built their lives and careers around kids the exact same age as those who died in the shooting. It has them questioning how to help their students process this when they’re trying to process it themselves.

Nineteen little faces and two brave teachers are on the screens of every television today. It’s the first thing Theresa Coe saw when she woke up. “It hit me so much this morning seeing those pictures,” Coe said. “There’s one student who looked so much like one of my students, and that’s what really got me.”

When some say teaching is a passion – Coe exemplifies that. She’s been an elementary school music teacher for 31 years. “Their enthusiasm and positivity just pushes me on, and I know it’s like that for other teachers, too,” Coe said.

What stung the most was knowing the Texas elementary school kids were just days away from summer vacation. For three decades, Coe has watched the final week of school before summer become some of the most joyous times for her kiddos. “The kids are helping the teachers, and it’s a renewed energy of ‘Wow, we’ve accomplished the whole year, and it’s time to reward ourselves with a break,” Coe said. “You know, they’re on Cloud 9, and then this. So, it’s hard to wrap your brain around.”

Coe said while Mesa Public Schools finished class last week, she’s often dealt with questions from her students about school shootings. She tries to make them feel safe and protected while always making sure the door to her classroom is locked from the outside.

She teaches kindergarten through 6th grade, so information and stories about the Uvalde fourth-graders who died remind her so much of her own students. She said that age is particularly special, with brightness in those kids’ eyes. “They’re just very curious about everything. They want to learn, they want to be there, they want to just soak it all in,” Coe said.

Coe said she’ll look at her own protocols in the classroom to make sure any and every safety measure is taken. She adds it helps to talk to other teachers and support one another through these emotions.