Teacher Hears Student’s Grandma Slur Her Words During Virtual Class, Saves Her Life

A Michigan teacher helped save the life of her student’s grandma while giving her a virtual lesson.


Julia Koch, a first-grade teacher at elementary school was praised after she alerted the school principal that her online student’s grandmother was having a stroke.

The teacher was at a learning class at Edgewood Elementary School on September 22 when she received a call from a grandparent who was having technical difficulties. She noticed that Cynthia Phillips, who was finding it difficult to charge her granddaughter’s school tablet, that 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 said. “She didn’t sound like herself.” That prompted Koch to call Charlie Lovelady, the principal of the school in Muskegon Heights, who arranged a call to 911 while he spoke to Phillips on the phone.

“I noticed her speech was impaired, and I asked her if she was alright, and she was stumbling over her words and it was getting worse by the minute,” Lovelady said. “I knew the symptoms of a stroke because I lost my father from a stroke so I told her to hold on and immediately got her help.”

With an ambulance on its way to Phillips, Lovelady told two employees to drive him to her house to check up on her and the young children under her care. “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 okay,” she said through tears. “I thank God I didn’t die in front of my kids.”

Phillips is in the hospital and is slowly recovering, “I am immensely proud of both Ms. Koch and Mr. Lovelady, their quick actions and the energy they have poured into relationships with students and families during this new way of education are making a significant positive difference in the lives of our students and their families,” Muskegon Heights Public School Academy System Superintendent Rané Garcia said.

Koch is working hard to make her students and their families feel comfortable in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. But her love for her kids goes far beyond teaching them math and writing through a computer screen. “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,” Koch said.

“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.” 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.”


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