Teachers who get the highest marks for heroism


The tragedy of yet another school shooting, this time in Nevada, sadly shines the spotlight on the story of a hero teacher who gave his life to save students.

But just as amazing as slain Nevada teacher Mike Landsberry's actions — confronting an armed student out for blood — is how many times other school employees have done the same thing.

There's Sandy Hook Principal Dawn Hochsprung, who tried to confront gunman Adam Lanza and paid with her life, and Antoinette Tuff, the school bookkeeper who convinced a gunman to surrender after a 25-minute siege in suburban Atlanta.

And in just the last few years, there are numerous other examples of teachers across the nation who have tackled or talked down shooters in their midst, keeping their cool in the face of terror and putting the safety of their students above their own.

Here are just a few of the other educators who have saved lives by giving their pupils a real-life lesson in courage under fire:

When a 16-year-old student burst into the science room at Taft Union High School in California and started firing a Winchester 12-gauge last January, terrified teens ran for the doors.

But teacher Ryan Heber, 41, stayed put, facing down the gunman even though he'd been grazed in the head by a pellet and defusing the situation with nothing more than words.

Heber kept the suspect talking until administrator Kim Fields could arrive and convinced the suspect to give up his gun.

"If it weren't for this teacher and a quick response, we don't know," Kern County Sheriff Don Youngblood said of the possible carnage Heber prevented.

"He had intended targets — there's no question."

David Benke, a seventh-grade math teacher, made a quick calculation after he heard the first gunshot in the parking lot of Littleton, Colorado's Deer Creek Middle School: he was only 15 feet away from the gunman, who would need a couple of seconds to reload.

Deer Creek Middle School teacher David Benke describes his altercation with school shooting suspect Bruco Strong Eagle Eastwood during a news conference at the Jeffco Public Schools administration building in Golden, Colo., on Feb. 24, 2010. Barry Gutierrez / AP file

"He had a bolt-action rifle and I knew he couldn't get another round off when I got to him," Benke said later.

The soft-spoken father of three tackled deranged suspect and ex-student Bruco Eastwood and held him down with the help of another teacher until an administrator could grab the gun.

Two students had been wounded, but if Banke hadn't been on parking-lot duty that day in February 2010, it could have been much worse.

For his courage, Benke, 60, was given the Carnegie medal for heroism and a ride with the Air Force Thunderbirds. He says he couldn't imagine reacting any other way and his only regret is he didn't get to the gunman before he could fire a second shot.

The sound of two pipe bombs exploding at Hillsdale High School in Northern California sent students and teachers running away as fast they could. But English teacher Kennet Santana went toward the chaos and came upon a young man in a military-style tactical vest, armed with other bombs, a sword and a chainsaw.

"We were maybe six feet away from each other at this point; we're talking seconds, there was not time for a lot of thinking," Santana told NBC Bay Area after the August 2009 incident.

"He was trying to go towards the kids," Santana, 39, said. "He was trying to go towards the drama ... I decided to close distance and bear hugged him and restrained his arms. We were face-to-face, chest-to-chest."

Santana sent another student for help, and the principal and a counselor showed up and restrained the 17-year-old dropout until police could arrive.

When Katie Fuchs approached a student at Baltimore's Stemmers Run Middle School who was ignoring his assignment, she might have expected to get an excuse or a puzzled look. Instead, she got a .25 caliber semiautomatic pointed right at her.

The Maryland social studies teacher told the 13-year-old boy to put down the weapon, but he then pointed it to students who were closest to the door and might be able to dash out for help, according to court documents.

When the child pointed the gun at his own head, Fuchs spun into action and knocked it out of his hand and to the floor, where the magazine fell into several pieces.

Fuchs no longer works at the Essex school but a Facebook tribute page created by students after the frightening September 2012 confrontation lives on. "Thank you, Ms. Fuchs," it says. "You are our hero."

Teacher Derrick Schonauer discusses a shooting at his school at a news conference in Sept. 2012. Schonauer is being called a hero for subduing a student who fired a gun at Normal Community High School in Normal, Ill. Illinois State University

Rookie health teacher Derrick Schonauerhad been on the job at Normal Community High School in Illinois for just 12 days when a 14-year-old student suddenly pulled out a gun, terrorized the other kids with it and fired two shots into the ceiling in September 2012.

Schonauer brought the 10-minute ordeal to an end by tackling the boy, who allegedly was also armed with two more handguns, a hatchet, two knives, flammable liquid and matches.

No one was injured, but one parent told the Pantagraph newspaper of Bloomington, Ill., he was certain Schonauer, 26, saved lives, saying, "In my eyes, he ranks up there with those passengers on Flight 93 on 9/11."

In April, the teacher received the "Courage Award" from the Illinois Education Association and said he was uncomfortable with the new label he had been given.

"I’d rather be known as a great teacher instead of a hero," he said.