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Former Sandy Hook Elementary Teacher, Founder Classes4Classes, Author of Choosing Hope
On Dec. 14, 2012, in the first classroom of Sandy Hook Elementary School, first grade teacher Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis endured unimaginable tragedy. The heroic teacher is credited with saving the lives of all 15 of her students by acting quickly upon hearing the sounds of gunfire and locking them all in a small bathroom until the ‘good guys’ came to let her know that it was over and they were now safe to come out.
Kaitlin M. Roig-DeBellis (https://kaitlinroigdebellis.org/) is the Founder & Executive Director of Classes 4 Classes, Inc., a 501(c)3 organization. Kaitlin founded Classes 4 Classes knowing that positive social change was needed, and that this needed to begin with the youngest members of our society, our K-8 students. Classes 4 Classes is a social networking tool, for every student in the United States to learn: compassion, caring, kindness, empathy, consideration, through active engagement. Classes 4 Classes has worked with over 15,000 students in 38 states. In 2021 they are expanding to all 50 states. Classes 4 Classes has been featured in People, O Magazine, Fortune, Glamour, Marie Claire, Good Housekeeping and other national publications.
Kaitlin speaks to School Boards, Administrators, Teachers and High School and College students across the US and Canada as a keynote and commencement speaker. Kaitlin has addressed over 235,000 people in person and over 1.5 million virtually. Kaitlin is the author of ‘Choosing Hope: Moving Forward From Life’s Darkest Hours’ published by G.P. Putnam & Penguin. Kaitlin teaches 2 courses, one that she created, at Bay Path University as an Adjunct Professor. Kaitlin serves on the NEAG Alumni Association Board of Directors. Kaitlin is a Leadership Legacy Mentor at the University of Connecticut. She also sits on the Glam4Good Advisory board. In 2016 Kaitlin received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. Kaitlin has worked in recruitment and admissions at both Bay Path University and UConn since 2018.
In 2015 Kaitlin was selected as one of the top 50 Educators in the world, by the Global Teacher Prize and the Varkey Foundation. In 2014 Kaitlin was selected as a Point of Light by President George W. Bush’s Foundation for her work. She also delivered a keynote address for ABC Family Literacy, Barbara Bush’s Foundation in Maine. Kaitlin was honored to attend the President’s ceremonial send off from Andrews Air Force Base, home to his final resting place.
In October 2014, Kaitlin received the alumni association’s Humanitarian Award from her alma mater, The University of Connecticut. In May 2014, Kaitlin received two Honorary Doctorate Degrees, one of Humane Letters from Bay Path University and the other of Public Service from Luzerne College. Kaitlin delivered a TEDx talk at UMass Amherst in April 2014. Kaitlin and her non-profit have been featured in People, Glamour, Marie Claire, and Cosmopolitan, as well as, on World News with Diane Sawyer, Anderson Cooper, Katie Couric, Extra and Yahoo News!
In 2013 Kaitlin received the Dedicated Teacher Award from The Chicago International Conference on Education. Kaitlin writes educational blog posts for the Huffington Post weekly. Kaitlin also contributed to the book ‘Teaching From the Heart’ volume 2, published in May 2014. Kaitlin ran the NYC marathon, in honor of 12/14/12, and the lives lost.
In 2013 Kaitlin was honored as one of Glamour Magazine’s Women of the Year along side Nobel Prize nominee Malala Yousafzai, Congresswoman and shooting survivor Gabby Giffords, and Emmy nominated actress Kerry Washington, among others. Previous Glamour Women of the year include Former First Lady and teacher, Laura Bush and Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Also in 2013, Kaitlin was honored by L’Oreal Paris one of their “L’Oreal Paris Women of Worth” of which she was one of “10 Inspiring Women Making Beautiful Differences in their Communities”. Through Women of Worth, L’Oreal Paris is committed to recognizing women who are true to themselves and their passion of making a difference in their communities. L’Oreal Paris supports these inspiring women through a donation for their charity and by raising awareness for their causes.
In 2007 Kaitlin began teaching first grade at Sandy Hook Elementary School. There she served on the Math Committee, Language Arts Committee, Action Research Committee, and Social Committee. She also began Marathon Mondays, a running club for 3rd and 4th grade students.
Kaitlin began her teaching career as a Reading Specialist in Westport, CT in 2006. While there, she worked with first and second grade struggling readers. Kaitlin worked closely with teachers, and administration to implement strategies and action plans for these readers.
Kaitlin attended UCONN and was accepted to the NEAG School of Education, where she completed her Masters of Education with honors in 2006. She was a member of Order of Omega honor society, The Historical honor society and the NEAG honor society, and was named a New England Scholar in 2005. Kaitlin served as the Historian for the NEAG Student Association and was a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma Sorority where she served as Membership Chair, Recording Secretary, and on the Scholarship Committee. She worked as an intercollegiate athlete tutor to refine study skills and plan essays, as well as a study hall monitor for the UCONN Men’s Soccer team.