updated 11/24/2006 6:18:21 PM ET 2006-11-24T23:18:21

Tiletia Copley must be a pretty good teacher — a quick lesson she conveyed while choking helped save her life.

Copley teaches physical education and health at Kennett Middle School in the Missouri Bootheel. On Nov. 15, she was drinking coffee when it went down the wrong way. The coughing soon gave way to gasping as something lodged in her throat.

"I knew what was happening," Copley said, "and I was not too scared initially. But within a few seconds I could not breathe."

Unable to dislodge the item, Copley walked into the school hallway and encountered 13-year-old Amanda Rinks, a seventh-grader. Though unable to speak, Copley took Rinks' arms and put them in the position to do the Heimlich maneuver.

Rinks, who had learned the Heimlich from her mother, figured out what the teacher was directing her to do. After a few attempts, she was able to dislodge the item from Copley's throat.

"It was a little scary," Rinks said. "I just did it."

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