FORTVILLE — A third-grade teacher at Fortville Elementary is being hailed a hero for saving a student from choking.

After lunch Wednesday, Amy Hoeppner was walking her students back to the classroom as she does every day. She stopped in the hall, allowing the line of students to catch up when she noticed the boy standing next to her in distress.

Abram Witten’s hands were around his throat. He couldn’t talk, and it sounded like he was choking.

Hoeppner remembered he’d been chewing on a stalk of celery as they left the cafeteria and asked him if he was OK. When he couldn’t answer, she jumped into action, performing the Heimlich maneuver.

She was able to quickly dislodge the celery from his throat, and Abram immediately began breathing normally, a news release for the school corporation states.

Abram visited the school clinic to be checked out and to talk with his mom. Soon after, he insisted he felt fine and wanted to return to class.

Now, Abram’s mom and other school leaders are calling Hoeppner a hero.

Abram’s mom, Serenity Turner, said Abram probably didn’t understand just how traumatic the day had been, how quickly bad could have gone to worse, school officials said.

“I’m glad (Hoeppner) reacted that well under pressure,” she said in a news release. “It’s a good thing she acted the way she did, and he came home in one piece.”

Hoeppner first received Heimlich maneuver training during her time as a camp counselor in college and has taken CPR and emergency training courses since, school officials said.

Teachers are required to be certified in CPR before they’re hired and update their certification every few years. Mt. Vernon School Corp. nurses offer training to staff frequently, a news release states.

Reflecting on the ordeal, Hoeppner said people asked her how she knew what she needed to do, where to put her hands and make sure she performed the life-saving technique correctly.

“Honestly, you don’t have time to think about the exact textbook example; you just do it because you know what you are supposed to do — even if it’s not perfect,” she said.

Hoeppner’s attentiveness to her students saved Abram’s life, Superintendent Shane Robbins said.

“She is truly a hero, and we are proud to have such a caring champion in our Mt. Vernon community,” he wrote in a news release.

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Samm Quinn is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3275 or