LAPORTE —Two LaPorte teachers have been recognized for recently saving the lives of two students choking on food.
One of the teachers, Kristen Kleist, sprung into action two weeks ago when a five-year-old girl having a snack in her preschool classroom at Crichfield Elementary began struggling and turning red in the face.
''She had her hands on her throat and I knew something was wrong,'' said Kleist, who is in her third year as a teacher.
The LaPorte School Corp. makes sure more staff members are trained in the Heimlich maneuver and other life-saving measures since the 2006 choking death of a nine-year-old boy. A hot dog had lodged in the throat of Juan Loera, a student at Hailmann Elementary School, and there were allegations then that not enough staff members were trained to save him.
Board member Mitch Feikes said trained school personnel were on hand, but not even paramedics could free the hot dog lodged tightly in the boy's throat.
''I think it's great what they did,” Feikes said of the recent events.
“They saved two people's lives.”
Kleist, along with LaPorte High School physical education teacher John Eason, were awarded certificates for successfully performing the Heimlich maneuver to clear food lodged in the airways of their students.
''It was scary. We were both shaken up,'' said Kleist, who needed just one abdominal thrust to force a cheese cracker out of the girl's windpipe.
Eason on Jan. 20 saved the life of a student in the library at the high school.
Feikes said the state requires all new educators to be CPR trained to obtain a teaching license.
Since the boy's death, Feikes said, the school corporation offers programs for teachers to become skilled in saving lives.
''If I wouldn't have known what to do, something really, really bad could have happened. I am excited I was able to do something like that for one of my kids,'' Kleist said.
LaPorte Schools Superintendent Glade Montgomery said teachers are heroes anyway but even more so when they safe a life.
''These two teachers went above and beyond the call of duty,'' Montgomery said.