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Ct. Teacher Struggles With What To Tell His Students


Now, across the country today, teachers and students are heading back to school, three days after the Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. And this won't be an easy day for anyone in the school setting - parents, children, school administrators. For one Connecticut teacher, it will mean talking about what happened just a few hundred feet from his home.

From member station WNYC, Brigid Bergin has his story.

BRIGID BERGIN, BYLINE: Kyle Mangieri loves his job. This is the first year the 27-year-old has been teaching Social Studies to seventh graders in Fairfield, Connecticut full-time. Mangieri is also the basketball coach and literally gives his middle schoolers something to look up to.

KYLE MANGIERI: Yeah, I'm 6'5".

BERGIN: On Friday, he was in his classroom in Fairfield, about half-an-hour from Newtown, when he found out about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. As details trickled out all day, he started to lose his focus.

MANGIERI: At 12:30, when I had a break, I looked at my phone again and I had a bunch of missed texts.

BERGIN: Finally, he told his principal where he lived and said he needed to leave. While Mangieri teaches in Fairfield, he lives in Sandy Hook, right at the base of the hill that leads up to Sandy Hook Elementary School.

When he got home Friday, he saw frantic parents rushing up that hill to the school. Many walked back with their children, often in tears. Others returned alone.

MANGIERI: They looked like zombies. They looked like they'd just been given the worst news of their life.

BERGIN: Yesterday, across from his porch, police officers were directing traffic at the intersection. The road to the school is still blocked off. But a steady stream of mourners and media go back and forth from a makeshift memorial at the school's entrance. The school itself is still a closed crime scene.

Mangieri made a banner that hangs from his window that says: God Bless Sandy Hook. His family also turned the front yard over to a church group so its members could set up a display in Christmas lights that reads: Faith, Hope and Love.

His father, Chris, came to town yesterday so they could watch the Giants football game at a local bar and get a bit of a reprieve. But Mangieri, Sr. mainly just wanted to hang out with his son.

CHRIS MANGIERI: I'm a Dad, you know. I remember him and his sister being in middle school. And if this ever happened when they were there, I don't know what I would have done. I mean I would have - the panic would have been ridiculous.

BERGIN: Today, Kyle leaves his home in Sandy Hook and heads back to his Fairfield classroom. His superintendent sent out an email over the weekend telling teachers things will be a little different. He has to go to school extra early so teachers can meet first with guidance counselors. Then all the teachers will meet the students at the front door.

MANGIERI: And once school begins and all the students are in, every single door will be locked. And that was never the case before.

BERGIN: His class is currently studying geography, but Mangieri plans to set that aside today. His students know where he lives. And he knows they'll have questions.

For NPR News, I'm Brigid Bergin in Newtown, Connecticut. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Brigid Bergin