President Barack Obama bestowed the Presidential Citizens Medal on the six adults killed in the tragic Newtown, Conn., school shooting in December.

Obama presented the medal to family members of the six educators from Sandy Hook Elementary School in a White House ceremony. He read their names one by one, saying they gave their lives to protect the children in their care.

The Newtown honorees were principal Dawn Hochsprung, psychologist Mary Sherlach and teachers Rachel D'Avino, Lauren Rousseau, Anne Marie Murphy and Victoria Soto. 

The Presidential Citizens Medal honors Americans who have performed "exemplary deeds of service" for their country or fellow citizens. It is generally recognized as the government's second-highest civilian award.

The staff members slain inside the Connecticut school have been credited with protecting the students when a gunman attacked the building. Some rushed toward the gunman while others used their bodies to shielded children from gunfire.

The shooter killed the six adults and 20 first-graders in two classrooms with a military-style semi-automatic rifle before committing suicide.

Authorities have not provided a possible motive for the 20-year-old gunman, Adam Lanza, who killed his mother inside their Newtown home before driving to the school to carry out the massacre.

Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, a renowned pediatrician who developed a leading behavioral test for newborns, was also honored, as was former Pennsylvania Sen. Harris Wofford and a handful of others who were recognized for contributions to public service.

Obama says citizenship binds the nation together and captures Americans' belief in something bigger than themselves.

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.