TOLLESON, AZ (3TV/CBS5) -- "What is a hero?" That's what Alissa Leznek asked her seventh-grade writing students at the Arts Academy at Estrella Mountain in Tolleson. She gave them a special project the week before September 11.

“We had some really great discussions about, you know, well what do you think the family feels like? What do you think the kids felt like?,” she said.

The students didn’t watch graphic videos of the terrorist attacks, but instead they learned about the police officers, firefighters, and canines who saved lives. Arizona’s Family got a chance to catch up with 12-year-old Layla Parker. For the assignment, she also spoke to her grandmother about her memories of that tragic day.

“A hero to me is someone who helps and is kind,” she said.

Those heroes were the focus of Leznek's classroom conversations. She thinks it's always good to know our history so we can learn from it and turn the bad into good.

Leznek has been a teacher for 16 years, and September 11 has always been in her lesson plans. “I think it meant something for everybody,” Lezner said. “And it just touches me every year."

Leznek also traveled to New York City the year following the attacks. At one point she trained as a dispatcher so she had to listen to hours of the 911 tapes, which really hit her hard. "I work with the police department," she said. "I volunteer a lot. I work with FEMA. I've done search and rescue before."

Here are some resources for parents and families.

 

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