School Superintendent Janet Robinson said Saturday Sandy Hook Elementary School Principal Dawn Hochsprung, 47, and school psychologist Mary Sherlach, 56, were shot as they tried to tackle the shooter "in order to protect her students," The New York Times reported.
Hochsprung was in her third year in charge of the Newtown school, after 12 years in other administrative positions, CNN reported. She was also a wife and mother with two daughters and three stepdaughters.
Tom Prunty, a friend of the principal, also had a niece at the school. The little girl escaped Friday's massacre.
"She was really nice and very fun, but she was also very much a tough lady in the right sort of sense. She was the kind of person you'd want to be educating your kids," he said. "And the kids loved her. Even little kids know when someone cares about them, and that was her."
Aimee Seaver, mother of a first-grader, called Hochsprung "extremely helpful."
"I never saw her without a smile," Seaver said.
Last summer, Hochsprung was accepted into the 27-month doctorate program at Esteves School of Education at the Sage Colleges in New York, the college said. Dean Lori V. Quigley called her a "caring administrator."
Her final tweet on Thursday was upbeat: "Setting up for the Sandy Hook nonfiction book preview for staff ... Common Core, here we come!"