MANATEE -- Sheryl Wesolowski's fourth-grade class at Abel Elementary was celebrating a student's birthday at lunch during the second week of school when a student approached her in a panic.
"Her hands were clutching her throat, and I could hear her trying to whisper 'I'm choking!'" Wesolowski said Wednesday.
The young student could not breathe and was choking on a cupcake brought in as a birthday treat.
"I immediately jumped up and did the Heimlich maneuver," Wesolowski said.
Wesolowski received her CPR certifications last spring through a course offered by the Manatee County School District.
The child's mom, Jessica Napoli, said she got a call from a school nurse immediately after the incident.
"My first reaction was panic," recalled Napoli, a stay-at-home mom. "Hearing that your 9-year-old was choking would make any mom panic."
Napoli wrote a letter to Wesolowski, saying how thankful she is her child's teacher knew what to do.
"There aren't many words to describe how grateful I am for her stepping in," Napoli said. "The phone call I got could have been very different, and horrible."
Napoli, who at one time was certified in child and infant CPR, said the incident inspired her to look into getting re-certified.
Wesolowski said she has counseled her class about taking small bites and chewing their food carefully. And she stressed the value of knowing CPR.
"I always recommend to take the opportunity to take a course," Wesolowski said. "You never know when you might be in a situation where you can do something for someone."
Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.