Victoria Soto, 27, a first-grade teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, is being hailed as a hero for saving her students before being shot to death by a gunman who entered the school and opened fire Friday morning.
"Her life dream was to be a teacher," said Soto's cousin James Wiltsie. "She just had that motherly instinct to take care of little ones."
Members of Soto's family spoke with Eyewitness News and said her body was found in a position shielding some of her students from gunfire.
"Her natural instinct to protect the kids is what took over and it was what ultimately ended life," Wiltsie said.
Soto's family said she was able to get most of her students into a closet before Adam Lanza barged into the room and began shooting.
"She was found with her children trying to get them in a closet and putting herself between the bullets and children," Wiltsie said. "Trying to protect the kids"
Soto, who turned 27 last month, has a double degree from Eastern Connecticut State University and was in the process of getting a master's degree at Southern Connecticut State University.
She is a graduate of Stratford High School and leaves behind three siblings.
A vigil was held for Soto at Stratford High School Saturday night.
"She passed away doing what she loved, her dream was to nurture their minds and souls," Wiltsie said.
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