Indiana Daily Student

IU alumna, teacher at Parkland school recounts her experience

<p>IU alumna Katherine Posada, a 10th grade English teacher from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, speaks one-on-one about her experience during the shooting. Posada also spoke during a talk at the IU School of Education on Friday.</p>

IU alumna Katherine Posada, a 10th grade English teacher from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, speaks one-on-one about her experience during the shooting. Posada also spoke during a talk at the IU School of Education on Friday.

It was the last period of the day.

There had already been a fire drill earlier in the day, but Katherine Posada paused on reading Act 3 of "Macbeth" with her English II class and evacuated with them when the alarm went off again.

Then people started shouting it was a code red.

“I never thought that there was really a shooter,” she said. “It just never entered my mind.”

But 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz had allegedly just walked into a building on the campus of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and opened fire. 

On Valentine’s Day, 17 people died and families lost their loved ones, many of whom were teenagers.

In her classroom across campus, Posada, who graduated from IU in 2003 with an English degree, and her students were in a corner, thinking it was a drill. 

Then a student in Posada’s class started crying while on the phone. His sister was in the building where the shooting took place and called to tell him it was real. 

“That’s when we sort of knew that it wasn’t a drill, there was really something going on,” Posada said.

They huddled in the classroom for over an hour, knowing little about what was happening. They spoke quietly, trying to stay out of sight of the small window in the doorway. The lights were off, and some students had their arms around each other. Some got information from friends and family, others tried to watch local news channels on their phones.

For a typically chatty class, the atmosphere that day stood out to her, Posada said. Most of the talking consisted of updates on what was happening, and even though they could hear sirens and helicopters, they had little knowledge of the current situation.

Posada had four other family members at the school that day. Her husband, aunt and cousin are teachers at Stoneman Douglas, too, and her sister-in-law is a student there. They checked in with each other throughout the afternoon to let each other know they were all right.

After more than an hour, Posada and her students heard men shouting in the hallway.

There were brief, light taps on the door, nothing like what Posada said she would have expected if it were police. She said the room went silent, not knowing who it was. 

They heard the fumbling of keys outside, and then the door finally opened.

Standing in front of some of her students, Posada said she was terrified for a moment. A million things went through her head, not knowing if it was the police or the shooter.

“The first thing that we saw was the barrel of a rifle pointed at us,” she said. 

A team of responders yelled orders to the class, telling them to put their hands up, to get in the middle of the room. As soon as Posada saw the way the men were dressed, she began to relax and tried to calm her students down after they saw the guns pointed at them.

After the shooting, Posada said she talked about it with her 8-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter, who have practiced active shooter drills at their elementary school. She said they do know there was a shooter and that it was a dangerous situation.

“I don’t know that they can fully process the idea that both of their parents were in potential life-threatening danger,” she said. “I don’t think they quite get that.”

She said her son told her that day if a bad guy came into wherever he was, he was going hit him. She told him it was great to be brave, but if that were to ever happen to him, he needed to remember to hide.

After the shooting, Posada said her husband, Ray, wanted to return to Belmont University, his alma mater, to speak to students there about the incident and plans to later in March.

Posada wanted to do the same to help others make sense of everything.

Friday morning, she stood at the front of the IU School of Education’s auditorium. Hundreds of students attended her talk, filling the seats in the auditorium and more in another room with a live stream of the event.

Sophomore early childhood education major Megan Green said one of her classes had discussed the shooting, and she attended the talk to hear from someone with a personal account of it.

“I really appreciated her openness to share with us,” Green said.

Posada spoke to education students about her experience in the classroom that day and answered questions about teachers’ roles in school shootings.

“Please don't let this type of event discourage you or make you be afraid to become a teacher,” Posada said. 

She said in today’s difficult and potentially dangerous world, it’s more important than ever to become a teacher and help prepare your students. 

Choking up a bit as she talked about them, Posada said the Stoneman Douglas students seen on the news arguing with politicians and advocating for issues didn’t get there by chance. 

They got there because of the teachers who taught them how to think critically and how to formulate their words, she said.

They got there because their teachers told them they could change the world.

“And that’s what they’re doing,” she said. “They are changing the world, and it’s amazing.”

She encouraged students in the room to be open with their future students and to get students help when they might need it.

“It’s better to get them help, and they didn’t really need it, than it is to allow them to go without the help when they needed it the most,” she said.

In protecting students, Posada suggested that schools have well-defined entrances and exits and that students wear IDs on campus.

“As far as guns, teachers being armed with guns, I think that is a terrible idea, and I have many reasons for that,” she said and was met with applause.

Teaching is about relationships and respect, she said. If she was armed, she said, her students would respect her weapon, not her, which is not conducive to teaching. 

She said in the context of a shooting, anyone with a gun is a potential threat to responders because they are there to assess a threat. 

Posada said if she had had a gun when the responders came into her classroom, she would have been shot as a potential threat.

“I don’t want to be a guy with a gun in a situation like that,” Posada said. “I don’t ever want them to wonder if I’m a threat to them.”

Morgan Schreiber, a freshman studying elementary and special education, graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last year and spoke at a press conference after Posada's talk. 

She said her 15-year-old brother, a freshman at the Parkland school, texted her during the shooting to tell her he loved her. While he's OK now, Schreiber said she wasn't sure what was going to happen while he was still in the school. 

Schreiber said she had classmates who went to Tallahassee, Florida, earlier in the week to try to implement change, and though they're still working on it, she said she hopes to see less school shootings.

"It's scary," she said. "It is. Because unless something changes, it's only going to get worse."

One of the last questions of Posada's talk asked about love in these types of situations.

"I think that the answer to things like this is more love," she said. "More understanding. More willingness to accept other people and their points of view, and the way that they might feel and they might think, and to be open to everyone expressing themselves.” 

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