Teacher Saves Choking Student In Columbus Elementary School Lunchroom


A Columbus City Schools first grade teacher is being credited with saving a student's life.

The little boy was sitting in the lunchroom at Salem Elementary School last Thursday, when the district says he started choking and was unable to alert anyone that he needed help.

First Grade Teacher Amy Tonti, who also serves as the monitor for the school's first lunch period, noticed the first grader was slumped over as she made her rounds in the cafeteria.  

"I said 'Are you choking?' and I saw his eyes widen a little bit,” said Tonti.

Tonti says she immediately scooped her arms under the little boy's arms and pulled him up to a standing position.

“Everything was running through my brain of the training we had gotten at the beginning of the year,” Tonti said “So finding his ribs, putting my fist and my hand on top, and then started the upward motion. Then by about the fifth or sixth thrust I yelled, "Spit it out!"

Finally, the food popped out.  

“What was funny, the first thing he said was, 'What is that?' as he was looking down at his food,” said Tonti.

The teacher says she then took the boy to the nurse's office.

Tonti says the lunch period she monitors has roughly 175 students, Kindergarten through second grade.

The school was about to use the incident as a teachable moment.

“We've also had a discussion with the whole lunchroom,” said Tonti. “I wanted them to know we did have a scary moment, and the reason that we want them at a level one - which is voices at a whisper - is not because we don't want them to have fun at lunch. It's for their safety.”

Since the incident lunch time at Salem Elementary has returned to its normal routine, but Tonti says she can't help but think of how different things could have been.

"I really think it was fate that I was supposed to walk by that table at that exact moment."