"The teacher feels overwhelming anguish. Those are empathetic, compassionate people," Mooney said. As he wrote his dissertation, he thought of his own colleagues and especially his students. "'What if it happened to him? Or her?' That would shatter me."
A nurturing school climate and support system for teachers who've experienced violent trauma can help, Mooney said, but it seemed like a tough culture to create amid the budget cuts and teacher bashing of the past few years.
"We have this unusual relationship with young people that many other people in professions don't have," Mooney said. "I hope society and districts see that."
Benke, the Colorado math teacher, is on the verge of retirement. After more than 30 years of algebra, he said, it's time to try something new.
He wants to lobby for some changes to teacher certification renewal. He'd like it to include first aid courses or self-defense classes, easy additions he said would cost nothing and keep students safer. He wants legislators to respect teachers for their academic expertise, but also as first responders, who need a clear emergency response protocol. He's writing about what happened in the middle school parking lot, maybe a book.
It was an intense few minutes, he said, but then, teaching is an intense business.
There' no handbook for how to motivate an apathetic middle school boy, to discover a girl abused at home, to know whose mom is dying of cancer, who is smarter than her homework suggests, who responds best to a lecture in the hallway or who needs a hug.
"That's a whole lot more lasting than whether they remember the quadratic formula," Benke said. "I used to think my job was to try to get as much math in kids' heads as I could.
"Then, I realized, what I did was build people."