Dawn Hochsprung was devoted to her children - both those who knew her as principal of Sandy Hook Elementary School, and her five daughters.
"Dawn is a beautiful woman with a smile that could just knock you down. That smile would grow bigger and just blind you if she was talking about her work. Those were her great passions in life: work and family," Barbara Malkas, superintendent of Webster Public Schools in Massachusetts and one of Hochsprung's mentors.
Hochsprung, 47, was shot and killed while lunging at the gunman in Friday's deadly rampage, according to the town officials quoted by the Associated Press.
Board of Education chairwoman Debbie Liedlien said administrators were coming out of a meeting when 20-year-old Adam Lanza reportedly forced his way into the school and ran toward them.
Hochsprung, who had been principal at Sandy Hook since 2010, died while trying to overtake him.
"The school under her leadership had really transformed into this model school," Malkas said.
In addition to being a full-time principal, Hochsprung was a graduate student, about to begin work on her thesis in the educational leadership doctoral program of the Esteves School of Education at The Sage Colleges in Troy, N.Y.
Malkas, a graduate of the program, served as Hochsprung's executive coach. The two spoke a week ago, during their regularly scheduled time for a conference call with each other - Saturday at 8 a.m. They had planned to work together next week, during the holiday break.
"Dawn was just one of those amazing educators who was just extremely committed and really passionate about her work," Malkas said.
The administrator said Hochsprung enrolled in the accelerated 27-month program this past summer. It has a hybrid class schedule with students meeting on weekends in person three times a semester, and taking online classes in between meetings.
"She was a joy to have in the program. She is truly the kind of person and principal parents would want their children to have in their lives," Robert Bradley, chairman of the doctorate program, said.
Malkas had talked with Hochsprung about her five older children, two biological daughters and three stepdaughters.
Hochsprung talked about how she was helping one of the daughters plan a wedding scheduled for this coming June.
"My coaching sessions with her were not work. I'd walk away from coaching sessions so energized, it was like who's coaching who," Malkas said.
Daniella Forte contributed reporting to this story.