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Huntley School District 158 teacher saves student choking on Cheez-It

Heineman Middle School teacher recognized for saving Algonquin 6th-grader

ALGONQUIN – Jackie Farr will always be grateful that Lynn Petryniec happened to have lunch duty on Jan. 28.

That was the day a small piece of a Cheez-It prematurely slipped down her daughter’s throat, got caught and blocked her airway.

Sixth-grader Emma Farr of Algonquin sat choking on the cracker while a friend, sixth-grader Melanie Taranis, ran to get help from Petryniec, who works at Heineman Middle School as a Spanish teacher and volleyball and basketball coach.

“We rotate lunch duty every two weeks, and it happened to be my week,” Petryniec said. “I went over and asked if she could cough it out and she shook her head.

“I asked if she could breathe, and she shook her head again.”

She helped Emma stand, put her arms around her and gave “two solid pumps” before the Cheez-It flew out and Emma took a big breath.

Petryniec was recognized at the most recent Huntley School District 158 Board meeting, where district officials called her actions heroic.

“Mrs. P. made a beeline and physically rolled up her sleeves and gets behind [Emma],” Heineman Principal James Litchfield said, referring to a cafeteria camera feed he watched after the incident.

For Petryniec, it happened too fast to really absorb until after the fact.

“I went over there and did the Heimlich, not thinking much about it,” she said. “Then I got back up to my room after lunch, sat down and realized that I was shaking.”

For Litchfield, the incident serves as motivation to pursue opportunities to train all teachers in basic life-saving skills such as the Heimlich maneuver. Petryniec was required to have training because of her coaching responsibilities.

Emma’s mom, Jackie Farr, said she would have expected all teachers would be required to have that training but was thankful one of those who did was on duty that day.

“So it was almost meant to be that she was there and that [Emma’s] friend went to the right person,” Jackie Farr said.

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