Teachers shoulder the day-to-day responsibility of ensuring their students’ academic success while also fulfilling several other roles in a student’s life. Depending on a child’s life circumstances and well-being, those roles can vary widely, be unexpected, and extend to the child’s family.
For Julia Koch, a first-grade teacher at Edgewood Elementary School in Muskegon Heights, Michigan, she would never have expected to assume a life-saving role for one student’s grandmother.
At the beginning of the school year in late September, Julia Koch was made aware of technical problems one of her students was having. The student’s grandmother, Cynthia Phillips, contacted Koch and was trying to explain the problem, but the teacher quickly became aware of a much more serious issue.
Koch immediately noticed Cynthia Phillips was speaking incoherently, as her words were very slurred, and then she made a life-saving decision. Koch notified her principal, Charlie Lovelady of the situation, and as he spoke with Cynthia Phillips, he recognized the onset signs of a stroke.
Having experienced this tragic event within his own family, Lovelady was familiar with the impending medical emergency. Lovelady kept the grandmother on the phone as additional staff members dialed 9-1-1 and drove to the residence for the sake of the children when the ambulance arrived and left.
Thankfully, Cynthia Phillips made it to the hospital safely and is expected to make a strong recovery. She has even started standing up and walking again. She did admit the road to recovery will be a long one, but she credited the caring and coordinated efforts of the school staff as the reason she is alive today.
These sentiments were echoed by the local fire chief, Chris Dean, who admitted, “Phillips’s long-term quality of life, at the very least, was positively changed.”
Keeping in mind that an untreated stroke’s effects are only magnified the longer they persist, Koch, Lovelady, and the other Edgewood Elementary staff members reacted exceptionally. Koch views the entire situation as a learning experience and appreciates even more now how her role as a teacher extends into her community. She holds the belief, as all teachers should, that a good teacher must genuinely care about students and their families beyond the classroom.
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