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NCHS teacher "hero" holds group hug, encourages healing

Mon, 10 Sep 2012 15:39:59 CDT
By: Willis Kern

NCHS teacher
The teacher credited with defusing a potentially tragic situation Friday at Normal Community High School says he wanted to go into teaching to influence young lives and help those with low self-esteem. Derrick Schonauer is the health and physical education instructor who managed to disarm a student who had fired a gun in class. Schonauer gave a statement to the media but declined to go into detail about how the incident unfolded. He said all students in the class showed up to start the week. Schonauer said he encouraged them to talk about what had happened.

"After announcements, I gathered all the kids together and said, 'everybody come 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 is nobody got hurt. No lives were taken Friday."

Schonauer says he let the students talk freely about what had happened.

"Everybody today we all wore orange and black just to show our school pride and show that we are not going to let this hold us back or affect us in any way and we're gonna move on and get through this together as a community and as a school."   

Schonauer left for his classes and didn't take any questions, but Unit 5 Superindendent Gary Niehaus did and said Schonauer had developed a liking for the alleged shooter. Niehaus said the student sat next to the teacher in class, and the Superintendent confirmed Schonauer had a bond with the boy that formed last year when the two shared a class Schonauer was student teaching at Evans Junior High. Schonauer, who was the last teacher hired this summer by Unit 5, is a 2012 ISU graduate from Lincoln and was in his 12th day of professional teaching. Niehaus says district officials are considering banning backpacks in high school classrooms. Currently they are forbidden in rooms at the junior high schools. He says early debriefing points to the need for improved communications and for fine-tuning the reunification process. Niehaus thanked more than a dozen restaurants for supplying food to students Friday while they waited at a nearby church to be released.


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