16 Excellence in Education - Linda O'Keefe

A good teacher is someone who will pass along wisdom that's useful and will come in handy down the road.

This 16 Excellence in Education winner is teaching a subject that's not only useful, but it's saving lives.

"You'd think after almost 3 months, I'd stop crying," said Wendy Baylock.

It was in February when Baylock nearly lost her 2-year-old son.

While she and older son Larry were delivering food to a friend, little Benji stuck his head out the window and then he shut it on his neck. The child nearly died.

"First there was confusion going on. Then, we rushed inside and I had to give him CPR," said Larry. "I was surprised I didn't lose myself. I kept my cool the whole time.”

"And Larry was strong and he just went and he just did it. He just did what he learned," said Baylock.

Jessica Worthington learned CPR too.

In the summer of 2006, she saved the life of a little girl who was struck by lightning at Silver Beach.

"It doesn't make me feel different because I did it out of, as I would want somebody to do it for me. God put me in that position that day and gave me a duty and that's what I did," said Worthington.

Larry and Jessica both learned emergency response training from Linda O'Keefe, the home environment and healthy living teacher at Dowagiac Union High School.

We learned about Mrs. O'Keefe from Carol Novak.

Years ago, Carol was in a class taught by Mrs. O'Keefe and now her daughter have her.

"My daughter's already been approached by an EMT to see if there's a class out there that she can take and start training in this now. As a freshman she's already putting that into what she might want to do when she gets out of school."

"I never had an idea that we would have this much impact but it's been great," said O’Keefe. "It is really the students. I just teach it, and from there they take it out into the community and use it."

A teacher for 35 years, Linda teaches SERT - Student Emergency Response Team. It covers CPR, first aid, basic firefighting but most of all bravery in the face of danger.

"If we can't keep our composure then we can't help anyone," said O'Keefe. "And if we can't keep our composure then we can become victims also."

At one time this program was one of only two taught in the state, now it generates interest in schools throughout the state.

"I think it's a great class and I believe that we [are] a model for the rest of Michigan and the nation and this is something that people can really put to use," said O’Keefe.

O’Keefe won a $1,000 savings bond from Notre Dame Federal Credit Union. The school will receive a $250 check.


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