Michigan elementary school teacher Julia Koch is being praised for her quick thinking after she helped save the life of a student’s grandmother while giving a virtual lesson. Koch was teaching her first graders remotely at Edgewood Elementary School in Muskegon Heights late last month when one student began experiencing technical difficulties. Koch called Cynthia Phillips, the student’s grandmother, to solve the problem — and that’s when she realized something was not right.
When Koch spoke to Cynthia Phillips, who was having trouble charging her granddaughter’s school tablet, the teacher noticed something was off in the grandmother’s voice. “It was clear there was something very wrong. Her words were so jumbled, and I couldn’t understand what she was trying to say,” Koch told CNN. “She didn’t sound like herself.” Koch quickly alerted the school principal Charlie Lovelady who had a staff member call 911.
Lovelady said “I noticed her speech was impaired and I asked her if she was alright. She was stumbling over her words and it was getting worse by the minute. I knew the symptoms of a stroke because I lost my father from a stroke so I told her hold on and immediately got her help.” With an ambulance on its way to Phillips, Lovelady asked two of his employees to drive to her house to check up on her and the young children under her care.
Phillips remains hospitalized and is slowly recovering. “I would have died if it weren’t for the teacher being so quick and fast about getting me help,” Phillips said from her hospital bed. “It made me so close to the staff and the principal, even the secretary who hurried to get me on the phone with the principal. They showed up at my house to make sure I’m OK,” she said through tears. “I thank God I didn’t die in front of my kids.”
Koch’s quick thinking helped a life and while Muskegon Heights Public School Academy System Superintendent Rané Garcia said he is immensely proud of both Ms. Koch and Mr. Lovelady, Koch feels she did what anyone would have done. “I don’t think one can truly be a good teacher and not care about the students and their families. In the environment we’re in especially, it’s too hard to do this without actually truly caring. Out of all this, what I’ve learned being part of a community that cares is so important. Paying attention to people and listening to them, always thinking of how to help. It’s great to know I’m part of a team like that.” Koch said.
Principal Lovelady said he is “blown away” by how quickly his staff worked together to save Phillips’ life. “I’m so proud of my team, it just shows that we have wonderful people here who didn’t think twice about calling for help and jumping in the car to check on them,” he said. “I’m a very, very proud principal.”