Kimberly Krawczyk who survived a school shooting
Kimberly Krawczyk and Archie.

By Selene Raj

Kimberly Krawczyk is not a hero — or, at least, she would prefer if you didnt call her one.

An educator of 16 years from Delray Beach, on February 14, 2018, she was teaching a freshman geometry honors class in room 1257 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas when a killer with an AR15 attacked.

Krawczyk did her best to protect her 25 students, who all survived the massacre. But, they had to walk over seven of their deceased schoolmates to exit the 1200 building.  Their experience has undeniably traumatized them in ways that most people cannot relate to.

When you love kids, and you want to teach them and help them grow, and then you walk over dead bodies, sometimes you just think nothing good is ever going to happen again,” she said.

And, for a long time, she managed that trauma and grief while still believing that joy might never return — until one day it did.

Coral Springs Police Sergeant Jeff Heinrich, who had carried a student out of the building, was also struggling to cope. Neither of them knew it at the time, but both he and Krawczyks lives would be forever changed when he confided in his friend Andre Sadowski,  a former officer, who bred service dogs.

Steadfast, a 501c3 nonprofit run by Andre and his wife, Gwen, gifted Heinrich a service dog and continued gifting service dogs to more officers and teachers.

The couple learned about Krawczyk’s work holding her former classroom together, years after their experience.

We do everything together—get pizza, talk, we do Zoom, almost everybody shows up to at least one thing,” said Krawczyk about the “1257 group.”

Teacher who Survived School Shooting is Transformed by Service Dog
Kimberly Krawczyk and service dog Archie. {courtesy}

They’re the reason she has continued to teach, and after they graduate, she plans to retire.

I just ordered the kidsChristmas gifts, and Im writing their last letters of recommendation, and its been tough—a lot of tears,” she said.

The couple insisted on gifting her with a service dog to help her refocus on herself, even after her initial protests.

So, in August, she met the four-month-old pup who would transform her life forever, reuniting her with a version of herself she believed no longer existed.  A German Shephard, his name is Archimedes, that she calls Archie for short.

He saved my life, literally,” she said, There were a lot of moments where I didnt know how to move forward.”

Courtesy of Steadfast, and the help of fundraising, Archie is also being trained by a certified K9 Master Trainer, specializing in obedience, socialization, Early Neurological Stimulation, and bringing comfort to survivors.

He is calm, affectionate, and helpful in ways she couldnt have imagined — making her feel safe and better. He was also trained to help her do things she wasnt able to do because of PTSD, like stay in a grocery store when there was a loud noise or leave her apartment when the fire alarm went off.

He makes me feel like I have one more reason to get up,” she said.

Archie accompanies Krawczyk to school every day, helping her in and out of the hallways. Also, he serves as a campus emotional support animal. When Krawczyk sees Archie playing with her students and how happy he makes them, it puts her in a much better place.

He makes me more available to the people around me, even in times that are trying and troubled — he reminds me of whats good,” she said.

She said Archie keeps her focused, and when hes around, shes a better human.

When I have someone to take care of, I remember how caring I am, and it reminds me of how much Im capable of,” she said, And all of a sudden, I can try to get back to who I was, and thats big.”

Of course, there isnt a one-size-fits-all recipe for finding joy after a tragedy. She has had the love and support of her children and family, consistent and professional therapy, and the bond with her 25 MSD kids — the 1257 group.

However, Archie seems to have been the missing ingredient, and she is forever grateful to have found him.

I dont know what my life would look like with Archie. He keeps me going.”

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