Derrick Schonauer ’12 is being called a hero for subduing a student who fired a gun during school Friday, but he’s not spending much time basking in the limelight.

“I won’t be taking any questions today, because I need to get back to my kids,” the College of Applied Science and Technology graduate told reporters during a Monday morning press conference.

Schonauer was teaching Health class Friday morning at Normal Community High School when a 14-year-old student allegedly fired multiple shots into the ceiling and briefly detained several classmates. Schonauer reportedly subdued the student when he put the weapon down for a moment.

News coverage: WGLT | The Pantagraph | WJBC Radio

Schonauer graduated from Illinois State and the Department of Health Sciences last spring. The Lincoln resident played football and basketball in high school, and he explained to reporters Monday what led him back to the classroom as an educator.

“I became a teacher to influence young people’s lives, especially those told that they can’t do something or will never amount to anything,” the first-year teacher said.

Schonauer did not go into details Monday about what happened inside his classroom on only his 12th day on the job, calling it only a “scary” situation. He reconnected with the students Monday morning.

“After announcements, I gathered all the kids, and I said, ‘Everybody come in here in the middle.’ We had one giant group hug, and I just told the kids that I loved every single one of them, I was proud of the way they handled it – not just me – I was thankful, and the most important thing was nobody got hurt. No lives were taken Friday,” Schonauer said.

Unit 5 school district Superintendent Gary Niehaus called Schonauer “our hero.” The 24-year-old was the last teacher hired at Normal Community High School over the summer.

“He’s somebody we’re proud of,” Niehaus said. “Instinctively, we all have that fight-or-flight inside of us, and obviously he had the right instinct inside of him.”

Ryan Denham can be reached at