‘Kindhearted’ teacher protects her students and helps them in escaping before being shot and killed

An AR-15-style gun was used by a 19-year-old in a catastrophic school shooting in which he fired at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School students in St. Louis, Missouri. A grandma of six and a mother of five from St. Louis, Jean Kuczka tragically perished on Monday when the shooter stormed into her class and began firing. According to a friend’s granddaughter who was in Jean’s classroom at the time of the shooting, Jean was defending her students and helping them escape through a window when she was slain.

When explaining how Jean stood between the shooter and the youngsters, Kristie Faulstich told CNN, “One student turned to me and said, ‘They shot Ms. Kuczka,’ as parents scrambled to get the kids out of the school.”

When Alexis Allen-Brown found out that one of her favorite teachers from high school had passed away while attempting to save her students, she claimed that she was not stunned by the news. Allen-Brown stated: “When I found out, the first thing I could think about was … that’s how much she cared about the students. She was going to save those babies.”

Abbey Kuczka, who is 27 years old and Jean’s daughter, shared with PEOPLE that her mother, who was 61 years old at the time, cherished both her family and her students. She was a passionate and caring educator who would do all she could for her students.

Abbey was also aware of the intimate relationships that Jean had formed over the course of her lengthy career as a teacher with both the staff members who worked for her and the students who attended her classes. Abbey would help her mom decorate the classroom before the beginning of each new school year.

Abbey is glad that she used to go on trips with her mom. They didn’t know it at the time, but the trip to Tower Rock on the Mississippi River last Sunday was their last trip together.

Jean had a variety of interests outside of her family and students throughout her 61-year life. She participated in the JDRF’s Ride to Cure Diabetes every year to raise money for the organization’s efforts to find a cure for juvenile diabetes after one of her boys was diagnosed with it at age 10. After raising money for it during a trivia night in September, Jean had planned to go to Amelia Island in December to participate in the bike ride.

Abbey claims that Jean’s children have acquired her enthusiasm for many sporting activities. The Kuczka family enjoyed going on holidays together on a yearly basis, and the devoted mom maintained strong bonds of affection with each of her children. Pompano Beach, Florida is the destination of choice for the annual Christmas vacation that the family takes to get away from the harsh winters in Missouri. Abbey elaborates, “That was one of my mom’s favorite places to go.”

The Kuczka family has asked that any donations made in Jean’s memory be donated to the JDRF Ride to Cure Diabetes page.