Graduates of local schools among the victims of Sandy Hook shootings

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Region - posted Wed., Dec. 26, 2012
Victoria 'Vicki' Soto. Courtesy photo. - Contributed Photo

Two of the young teachers murdered during the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., received their undergraduate degrees at Windham-area universities.

Victoria "Vicki" Leigh Soto, 27, of Stratford, is being hailed as a hero. While the circumstances surrounding her death remain fuzzy, it appears that Soto hid the children from her first-grade class in a closet and attempted to direct attention away from them. While some of her students were killed along with her, many of them escaped unharmed.

Soto was born to Carlos and Donna (Fagan) in Bridgeport, and grew up in Stratford. She was a member of the Stratford High School class of 2003, and is survived by two sisters, Killian and Carlee, and one brother, Carlos Matthew. Soto earned her undergraduate degrees in both education and history at Eastern Connecticut State University, where she graduated with high honors. She was in her fifth year of teaching at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. According to Soto’s family, “Teaching was her passion, following in the footsteps of her beloved Aunt Debbie, and her dream since she was 3 years old. Molding young minds was her priority, but being the 'fun' teacher was what she was all about.”

Family members say that some of Soto’s favorite things included: flamingos, the New York Yankees #11, Christmas, friends and family. She also loved her black Lab, Roxie.

"Vicki was truly an amazing daughter, sister, cousin, teacher and friend and died protecting her 'kids'," said her family. "We couldn't be prouder of our hero."

Lauren Gabrielle Rousseau, 30, of Danbury, was the daughter of Gilles and Teresa Rousseau. She leaves behind her immediate family: Teresa Rousseau and Bill Leukhardt of Danbury and Gilles and Joyce Rousseau of Southbury, and siblings Matthew Rousseau, Andrew Rousseau, Nathaniel Leukhardt, Emily Leukhardt and Andrew Leukhardt.

She is also mourned by Anthony Lusardi III, of Cortlandt Manor, N.Y., who family members called “the love of her life.”

Rousseau was known for “her exuberance for life, love of family, her friendliness, kindness and loyalty, and her ever-present smile,” according to family members.

Rousseau was born in Danbury in 1982, and graduated from Danbury High School, where she enjoyed singing and dancing in the yearly musical, and teaching in the school-based nursery school. She graduated from the University of Connecticut at Storrs in 2004 with a degree in English and psychology, and she earned a master's degree in elementary education from the University of Bridgeport.

Rousseau did her student-teaching at John Pettibone School in New Milford, and later worked as a substitute teacher in Danbury, New Milford and Newtown. From her college years on, she worked in catering at Fox Hill Inn, in Brookfield, and during the past few years she also worked at the Starbucks coffee shop in Danbury. She was hired as a permanent substitute teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary only weeks before her death. “She was thrilled when she finally realized her goal this fall to become a full-time teacher at Sandy Hook,” according to family.

"Lauren wanted to be a teacher from before she even went to kindergarten," said her mother, Teresa Rousseau. "We will miss her terribly and will take comfort knowing that she had achieved that dream."

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