Unsung hero: Teacher saves student from choking, praised by school district with Heroes Award

Published: Nov. 26, 2021 at 2:29 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - What Tricia Toews thought would be an ordinary Thursday in her Kindergarten classroom at Forest Hills Global Elementary School was far from it.

“I woke up that morning like it was going to be a normal Thursday, got ready, came to work and we had a really fun morning full of dancing and learning,” Toews said.

And things were normal until lunch time.

“So I give them 10 minutes of quite eating lunch time and so we were doing that and I was at my desk eating my lunch as well and I just had this feeling that something was not right. It was quiet but then I heard this commotion and this kind of pounding on the desk,” Toews said.

That’s when Mrs. Toews locked eyes with one of her students, Za’vion Coley in the back of the classroom. “I could kind of see him, panic in his eyes . . . and I was like ‘oh my gosh are you choking?’,” Toews asked as she started to give him the heimlich.

“I choked on a Dorito,” kindergartener Za’vion Coley said.

“I turned to him and I could almost hear him chewing it back up and so at that point I asked ‘are you still choking?’ and he [shook his head no]. And I just gave him the biggest hug and I felt myself kind of relive a little bit and just be so grateful that I was here for that and that he was able to get through that and I was able to help,” Toews said. “Your adrenaline is going so fast and you’re just making sure that you can do everything you can, so I got another teacher and had them cover my room, I went out in the hall and just kind of lost it for a minute.”

A life changing moment for both Za’vion and Mrs. Toews--and the class too. Za’vion remembers how scared his classmates were in the moment, especially one girl that sits next to him. ““Almost like she was about to cry; I was about to tell her it’s gonna be fine,” Za’vion said.

And thankfully he was fine, because of Mrs. Toews heroic actions.

Now Za’vion’s mom isn’t packing chips for his lunch, just to be on the safe side.

“My teacher saved me. I love her so much. I’m gonna give her a hug,” Za’vion said.

Toews was praised by her co-workers and the school district as she was given a Heroes Award earlier this month.

“I think God kind of looks out and puts you in a certain place at a certain time, and it’s kind of fate. I was here for that kiddo and I’ll be here for any other kiddo that needs me,” Toews said.

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