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Foundation set to present Richneck teacher Abby Zwerner with HERO Award

The award will be given to teachers "who have overcome extreme circumstances & continue to serve as positive role models for their students & school communities."

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — What happened inside that Richneck Elementary first-grade classroom in January is what very few of us can fully comprehend, but what many agree upon is how they define the actions of teacher Abby Zwerner in the moments after police say her 6-year-old student shot her

"She turns around and looks back to make sure that all of her students are safe," Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew said in a January interview. "I'll tell you this. I know she is a hero." 

In recognition of Zwerner's bravery, the Uvalde Foundation for Kids, a nonprofit organization that was formed following the Uvalde Elementary School shooting in Texas last year, has announced it will give the Newport News first-grade teacher a special award.

Zwerner's most recent update from her attorney says that she is still recovering, and it is uncertain whether she will ever return to the classroom again. 

In the aftermath of the tragedy, the Uvalde Foundation for Kids established a division in Newport News to help the school and community deal with the mental impact of the violence through additional trauma support and safety resources. 

Now, they've created the "Abby Zwerner HERO Award," which will be inaugurally presented to Zwerner herself in the form of a plaque. The award also grants Zwerner $1,000 from the foundation, which she can grant to a teacher of her choosing she believes is worthy of this award. 

"Specific to Newport News and Richneck in that area, we were looking at all this tragedy and we said there is a light. There are heroes as a result of this. There are students who are heroes," said the Uvalde Foundation's National Director Daniel Chapin. "But there are teachers like Abby who stood up for her students, is recovering, and is still dedicated to children."

Chapin said the award will essentially be given to other teachers in the future "who have overcome extreme circumstances & continue to serve as positive role models for their students & school communities."

Initially, the Uvalde Foundation for Kids said it would allow Richneck Elementary to have oversight of the award, but that was canceled back in February "due to developing circumstances" at the school.

They said that "given recent events at the school, the oversight and responsibility of the grant program itself would not be appropriate for the school itself to implement." 

They said they will instead be working with Ms. Zwerner and her representatives to oversee the grant directly.

Chapin said it won't take away what happened inside the classroom, but it's a way to help the community move forward.

"There is healing to move forward," said Chapin. "Part of that healing happens when you start looking at those individuals who are making a difference still in spite of circumstances."

Chapin said the last time he heard from Zwerner and her attorneys, Zwerner said she felt overwhelmed by the nationwide outreach.

13News Now reached out to Zwerner's attorney for a comment on this honor, but we have not heard back.

Newport News Commonwealth's Attorney Howard Gwynn said on March 8 that he does not believe the law supports charging the 6-year-old child with aggravated assault.

At this time, no charges have been placed yet. 

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