Mattoon teacher named Carnegie Hero

Angela McQueen

The Mattoon High School teacher who subdued a gun-wielding student at the school in 2017 was recognized as one of the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission's Carnegie Medal recipients.

High school teacher Angela McQueen was recognized as one of 18 recipients of the 2019 honor from the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, based foundation. According to a release from the organization, the Carnegie Medal is given to those throughout the United States and Canada who risked their lives to an "extraordinary degree" while saving or attempting to save the lives of others.

McQueen was chosen for her act of courage at Mattoon High School in September 2017 when a student fired numerous rounds in the school's cafeteria, injuring at least one student during lunch. According to Carnegie's release, the 40-year-old teacher was informed of the incident by a student, and McQueen lunged for the gun and forced the student's hand upward to the ceiling as he continued to fire.

McQueen held the student's arm in the air toward the ceiling until the gun clip was emptied and disarmed him as the school resource officer arrived to handcuff the student. The release said McQueen suffered minor hearing loss in both ears and post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the incident.

Carnegie Hero Fund Commission President Eric P. Zahren said upon learning of McQueen's heroism, the commission felt she without a doubt fit the description of a Carnegie hero.

"Based on our investigation, there is no doubt that Angela Lynn McQueen risked her life to an extraordinary degree to save those of students and staff in the cafeteria that day. She approached the student carrying the weapon, and as he began to fire, she acted at great risk to being shot herself," Zahren said.

Every nomination we receive is judged independently. Simply put, Ms. McQueen was a good candidate for the award because she met our stringent qualifications for being a Carnegie Hero. She put herself at great risk of harm to save others."

McQueen's quick actions, the release said, allowed several students and staff to escape the situation unharmed. Mattoon Community Unit School District 2 Superintendent Larry Lilly described McQueen as a bright spot on a dark day for the school district.

"We are pleased to learn of Angela McQueen’s deserving selection as a recipient of the Carnegie Medal,” said Lilly. “The Mattoon community is forever grateful for her quick response and heroic, selfless actions in stopping a school shooter. She was a ray of light in our darkest hour.”

According to the Carnegie Fund website, the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission was established in April 1904 by Andrew Carnegie, who was inspired to organize the fund following the Harwick mine disaster near Pittsburgh in 1904, which claimed 181 lives.

The victims included an engineer and a miner who went into the stricken mine in an attempt to rescue others. The tragedy and the sacrifices Carnegie to promptly take action on honoring and helping what he called the "heroes of civilization."

The Commission's trust established $5 million, which allows the Commission to gift the medal recipients or next of kin monetary grants. These grants include continuing support, scholarship assistance and death benefits.

Zahren said each recipient receives a three-inch bronze medallion in a display box with Andrew Carnegie’s profile in relief on the obverse of the medal and a cartouche on the reverse side, with details of each awardee’s acts embossed within.

McQueen was unable to be reached by press time.

Kaitlin Cordes can be reached at or 217-347-7151 ext. 132.

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