Quick Thinking High School Teacher Saves Student

Quick Thinking High School Teacher Saves Choking Student
Photo: Ms.Downes, Teacher at Pascack Valley High School

The Pascack Valley Regional High School District was the first district in the state to certify all faculty, staff, and students in CPR every year, starting in 2015.  On Wednesday, March 13, 2019, that training paid off for one of our students.

Mrs. Julianne Downes, Family and Consumer Sciences teacher at Pascack Valley High School, was teaching her Culinary Arts students how to prepare various chicken dishes.  A student in the class took a large bite of chicken and began choking. “I saw that [the student] was having trouble breathing and couldn’t speak. I remembered the CPR training we had and I got behind [the student] and started doing the heimlich maneuver.  It took a while - almost twenty times, but then the chicken came out and [the student] started to breathe again,” shared Downes.

The school nurse, administration, and school Special Police Officers (SLEO III) also responded to the scene.  Fortunately, the student required no further medical treatment.


Photo: Ms.Downes, Teacher at Pascack Valley High School

The Pascack Valley Regional High School District wanted to exceed the state requirements of Janet’s Law, which requires each school in the state to have a defibrillator and a few staff members trained in CPR.  Dr. Barry Bachenheimer, the Director of Curriculum and also an EMT and CPR Instructor said “All of our Physical Education teachers became certified instructors through the American Heart Association. They in turn train and certify all of our students, teachers, and staff members every two years - over 2300 people.  We also have multiple defibrillators in each school building.” Superintendent of Schools Dr. P. Erik Gundersen noted, “We are ever grateful to Ms. Downes for remaining calm, remembering her training, and saving this student’s life.” School principal Tom DeMaio shared how proud he is of Downes, “She kept calm and responded quickly!”

The district appreciates and is grateful to Mrs. Downes for her heroic actions that led to saving this student’s life.  Further, we are proud of our entire staff and student body for taking this training seriously so that it can be used to help those in their greatest time of need.

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