Normal Community High School students evacuated following a shooting in the classroom of Derrick Schonauer. (Photo by David Proeber/The Pantagraph. © 2012; used with permission.)
Derrick Schonauer ’12 is being called a hero for subduing a student who fired a gun during school earlier this fall, but he didn’t spend 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 press conference on the first day school resumed after the incident.
Schonauer was teaching a health class at Normal Community High School on September 7 when a 14-year-old student allegedly fired multiple shots into the ceiling and briefly detained several classmates. Schonauer subdued the student when he put the weapon down for a moment.
The 25-year-old graduated from Illinois State last spring with a major in health education and a minor in physical education. A Lincoln resident, he played football and basketball in high school. The last teacher hired at Normal Community High School over the summer, he explained to reporters 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 about what happened inside his classroom on only his 12th day on the job, calling it only a “scary” situation. But he did describe his first moments with his students after school resumed September 10.
“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,” Schonauer said.
Unit 5 school district Superintendent Gary Niehaus called Schonauer “our hero.”
“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.”