School counselor honored for saving student

Sean C. Morgan

Sweet Home Schools Supt. Keith Winslow last week recognized Foster and Oak Heights Counselor Joe Sanchez for saving the life of Foster first-grader Mary Jane White.

“She was eating lunch (on Feb. 13 in the cafeteria),” Sanchez said. “I was over helping, serving ranch dressing at the time.

“I heard one of the assistants scream my name out.”

Sanchez found Mary Jane choking and turning purple, he said. He performed the Heimlich maneuver once, and she started wheezing. He repeated it, a second time, and a big chunk of meat came out.

Sanchez has training in first aid, he said. “I knew what to do and just followed what I learned.”

He followed his training, he said. The gravity of the situation didn’t hit him until the adrenaline had worn off.

School officials called the school nurse and the parents afterward, he said. Mary Jane was fine following the incident, officials said.

Foster School’s Valentine’s Day party was held later in the day, Sanchez said, and Mary Jane was able to participate.

“I was just extremely thankful I was there at the right time to help her,” he said.

One of his jobs as a counselor is to keep students safe, he said.

Sanchez has been a counselor in Sweet Home for 10 years.

“We are glad to have him,” said Principal Luke Augsburger. “He was definitely in the right place at the right time, and we are thankful for that.”