This Substitute Teacher's Quick Thinking Likely Saved Lives In The New Mexico High School Shooting

"It kind of, instinctually, kicked in."

A quick-thinking substitute teacher is being credited with potentially saving dozens of lives in last week's shooting at Aztec High School in New Mexico, which resulted in the deaths of students Francisco Fernandez, Casey Marquez, and the shooter.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, 73-year-old Kathleen "Katie" Potter gave Fernandez permission to go the restroom and heard shots being fired moments later. After looking outside the classroom to see what all the commotion was about, Potter saw and heard custodian Thomas Hill yelling warnings about an active shooter, so she instinctively went into action to protect her class.


As reported by the Journal, sensing the students were in grave danger, Potter lead all 17 of them from the classroom to a tiny office next door, and urged them to get down on the ground. Once in the office, Potter pushed a sofa against the door to barricade it shut.

Just as all of the students made it to safety, the shooter entered Potter's now empty classroom and began firing at the walls, knowing students were located on the other side. The shooting reportedly lasted for about five minutes, but thanks to Potter's quick action, none of her students were hurt.

In fact, even after guiding the students to safety, Potter, a retired school psychologist, did what she could to keep them calm until the sheriff came. "They didn't know what was going to happen," she recalled to the Albuquerque Journal. "I said it's going to be OK."

Potter credits her response to the numerous active shooter lockdown drills she went through over the course of her 25-year career in education."It kind of, instinctually, kicked in," she told the Journal.

Though Potter isn't quick to heap praise upon herself, San Juan County Sheriff Ken Christesen recognized her and Hill as two of the many heroes who helped keep students safe on December 7. "These people are true heroes right here in our community," Christesen said at a press conference one day after the deadly shooting. "In every one of these things someone steps up and does the right thing."

What Potter did for her students is not unlike what many brave and heroic people did in the midst of the deadly Las Vegas shooting back in October. Among the stories of heroism was one about an unarmed security guard who lead police officers to the gunman before he had a chance to inflict even more damage.

If anything, this shows how crucial it is for students and teachers to be educated about and prepared for active shooter scenarios, because preparedness clearly has the power to save lives.


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