On Monday I published a blog about a middle school student at Kilbourne Middle School who choked on a mint during OAA testing. Kilbourne Middle School teacher Ed Repko noticed the student choking and performed the Heimlich Maneuver on the student dislodging the mint. Since that story was published I have learned a few other pieces to the story that I wanted to add.
In my blog Monday I wrote that “After calling for the school nurse to check on the student, without any fanfare or seeking of recognition, Mr. Repko went back to proctoring the exam so the 8th grade students would have no disruption to their testing window.” A student who was in the class with Mr. Repko reported a slightly different version of this story. He reported that upon successfully dislodging the mint from the choking student and upon learning the student was O.K., Mr Repko raised both hands above his head and danced around the classroom like he had just won a prize fight. (I did not confirm the students view with Mr. Repko for accuracy.)
If it’s accurate: I loved that! To be a successful middle school teacher you need to be able to appreciate middle school students (only a select few can actually appreciate middle school). You need to have a serious side, and you need to have a fun side. When interviewing a potential candidate for the principal of Wilson Hill Elementary on Monday night, the candidate was discussing with our interview team the importance of students enjoying the school experience and frankly, the importance of teachers and staff enjoying themselves as well. With great passion he blurted out “who doesn’t like FUN!?” I thought that captured the students version of Ed’s response, and I believe this response helped his middle school students process the seriousness of what happened without letting it overwhelm them.
Likewise, through an email sent to my wife the seriousness of this event was brought home to me. I learned of this event when Mr. Scully (the Kilbourne Middle School principal) sent me a text on Friday evening. My immediate thoughts were first, “I’m glad the student was O.K.” and second, “makes sense, if someone is going to choke on a mint it would be a middle school boy. If there is trouble, they find it.” Upon greater reflection over the weekend I felt that the incident rose to a level that I thought I should write about it.
But, last night my wife received an email from the mom of the student who was choking. I had never asked who the student was and I didn’t realize I knew the family. The mom described the incident from her parental point of view. She told of her son getting dizzy from being unable to breath, and she expressed deep gratitude for the alertness and actions of Mr. Repko. She believes Ed saved her son’s life.
Reading the words of the mom helped me really understand the gravity of the event. I can’t read them without getting choked up. The more I learn about this event the prouder I am that Ed Repko is a Worthington teacher. A great teacher can make the very serious fun. A great teacher may not earn great financial rewards but will always earn the gratitude of grateful parents. A great teacher is able to strike the right balance between high expectations, high rigor, and building strong personal relationships with students. When this happens students learn and teachers are in tune with their class. In tune enough to notice a student is choking and take action.
*Of the over 500 people that read my first Everyday Hero blog post, no one was yet able to produce a picture of Ed. I’m still looking for one the add to these posts. I’m considering a prize for the person who can email me the best picture….