SAN ANTONIO — Velma Lisa Duran starts each school day with a hug from each of her 22 second grade students.

“My little boy,” she laughs. “With the Big Ones.”

When she became a teacher more than 26 years ago, the 51-year-old knew her priorities would be to make learning fun and make sure her students felt loved and cared for. But for the past year, she’s found her students a little tighter, she told the Austin American-Statesman, part of the USA TODAY network.

Teaching was a passion she shared with her younger sister Irma Garciaone of At Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, two teachers and 19 fourth-grade students were murdered in their classrooms. on May 24, 2022. Irma’s husband of nearly 25 years, Joe, died of a heart attack days later, Duran says that he died because of a broken heart, unable to bear the death of his wife.

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