McKinney ISD

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Mr. Sneller Saves the Day!

Press Release|
Shane Mauldin|
Monday, October 7, 2019
Webb teacher Rico Sneller and student Emily Hiller

Webb teacher Rico Sneller and student Emily Hiller

McKinney, Texas – They are the kind of moments that can spring upon you in an instant. One minute, you’re laughing with your friends; the next, you can’t breathe.

That’s what happened to fourth grader Emily Hiller a little over a week ago during lunch at Webb Elementary.

Thankfully, Rico Sneller was there.

“Honestly, I can’t remember a lot of what I was thinking when it happened,” says Emily, “but, I remember, I was playing a game with my friends … and I guess I took a big bite or something, and then when I swallowed, it just got stuck. I could feel a lump in my throat. Our school teaches us the universal sign for choking, so I just did that.”

That’s when Emily’s friends sprang into action and began calling out to Sneller.

female students at table smiling

When Emily Hiller (right) needed help, her friends were quick to get the attention of a teacher.

Sneller, who teaches math in the Alpha program at Webb, doesn’t have lunch duty at that time of day. But, he checks out games to his students during lunch and was sitting at the table just behind Emily, teaching a group of boys how to play a new card game.

That’s when he heard the commotion from Emily’s friends and felt an urgent tapping on his shoulder.

He turned and could see that Emily was in trouble.

“It happened so quickly,” Sneller says. “I asked her if she was choking, and then I did the Heimlich maneuver—and it worked immediately.”

Sneller said that credit for his quick, effective response should go to the compliance training videos that staff are required to review every year. Among them, is a refresher on the Heimlich maneuver. If not for that, Sneller isn’t sure how he would have responded.

“I would have—I guess—just relied on trying what I had seen in movies or whatever,” he says. “But, the training walks you through exactly what to do, and thank goodness because…I don’t know. It happened so fast…”

“That’s exactly why we added the Heimlich maneuver to the compliance training,” says Julie Blankenship, McKinney ISD director of health services. “We’ve also added CPR to the training. Mr. Sneller handled the situation very well and did exactly what he should have done in that situation.”

While he was calm and collected in the moment, the reality of it all sank in later for Sneller. “I have a daughter about her age, and I thought to myself, ‘Oh, my goodness, what if that had been my little girl?’” he says. “So, it was scary. It all kind of hit me at once. And, it’s still kind of sinking in a week later. I’m so glad I was there, and I’m so glad it got resolved quickly.”

Emily’s parents are glad he was there, too. They called Sneller to personally thank him for helping their daughter.

As far as how Emily feels about her friends and Mr. Sneller…?

“I’m very thankful,” she says emphatically.

And, with that, she rejoins her friends at the lunch table. Just like she did yesterday. And just like she’ll do tomorrow—thanks to a quick thinking, well-prepared teacher named Rico Sneller.

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If you need additional assistance with the content on this page, please contact MISD Communications Department team member Shane Mauldin by phone at 469-302-4007 or by email here .

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