FOX Logo-ReducedWhen Adam Lanza opened fire inside Sandy Hook elementary school yesterday, taking the lives of 26 children and adults in a horrific and selfish act, teacher Vicki Soto did one of the most selfless things imaginable.

As the bullets flew toward her first-grade students who she had huddled in a corner for protection, the 27-year old teacher flung herself in front the barrage to save them. She paid for her bravery and courage with her life.

“She’s definitely a hero,” Jim Wiltsie, Soto’s cousin, told ABC’s Good Morning America. “Her life dream was to be a teacher and her instinct’s kicked in and protected her children from the harm that was coming.”

From all accounts Soto was a model teacher, daughter and citizen.

The young educator lived with her parents, her sisters, and a brother in Stratford, Conn in a modest Cape Cod-style house. She was single, spent time worshipping at the Lordship Community Church in Stratford and had a soft spot for her pet black Labrador, Roxy.

Read Related: Heroic Mothers: Amazing Tales of Moms Protecting Their Young

Her mother, Donna, was a nurse at Bridgeport Hospital for 30 years and her father, Carlos, worked for the Connecticut Department of Transportation as a crane operator. Vicki was special to her father, friends said, and it was his job to identify his child’s body following the shooting.

“He always talked about her,” Gary Verbanic, who works with Carlos Soto, told the New York Daily News. “He loved her like you wouldn’t believe. Every time he spoke to her on the phone, he was cheerful.”

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