NORMAL — A Normal Community High School teacher has received a Courage Award from the Illinois Education Association for his quick action in disarming a student in the classroom last fall.
It is one of several awards received by first-year teacher Derrick Schonauer, who had been a teacher for only 12 days when he subdued a student who had fired a gun in his classroom. No one was injured.
“It is clear that Derrick, to this day, cares as much about that troubled student in his class as he does about all the others,” said IEA President Cinda Klickna in the presentation at the group’s recent assembly in Chicago.
She said Schonauer’s bravery and dedication set a stellar example for all educators, and all others, to follow.
“He could have come away from this incident feeling frightened or angry. But he didn’t,” Klickna said. “Instead, he said this lesson, which he learned so early in his career, would forever be a reminder to him to reach out to students who feel like they are on the fringe. And that’s a lesson we can all learn from.”
Schonauer was also awarded an American Red Cross of the Heartland Public Service Heroes Award at the annual Saluting Our Heroes Breakfast in November and was also recognized by the McLean County Unit 5 school board.
“Not everybody could have done what Derrick did that day,” said McLean County Unit 5 Superintendent Gary Niehaus on Monday. “I look at him as somebody who instinctively did the right thing at the right time and made the right decision. And I guess I would want that for the students of Unit 5 to think of him in that same way, as a hero but also using his instincts, using his common sense and also taking the moment and doing something with it.”
The boy was a 14-year-old freshman on Sept. 7 when he walked into his first-hour health class carrying a backpack with three handguns, two knives and a hatchet.
As Schonauer wrapped up class, the boy walked to the front of the room and pulled out a handgun. Four shots were fired into the ceiling before Schonauer tackled the boy and got the gun away from him. Several students also helped subdue their classmate.
The boy pleaded guilty but mentally ill in December and was sentenced last month to state juvenile prison.