The 11-year-old boy, finishing up lunch, was chomping on a cookie when suddenly he couldn't swallow or breathe. The cookie had, in his words, gone down the wrong windpipe.
"I could see Jose standing in distress. He totally looked panicked," she recalled. "When you're choking you cannot breathe or talk. You panic," the Romeoville teacher recalled.
Standing about 30 feet away, Cesaretti's mind flashed back to when she was in the sixth grade and was choking on a lemon drop.
Instinctively, she went into action.
"I came up behind him and I performed the Heimlich, and he had been munching on a cookie and it popped out," she said.
Cesaretti teaches a careers class at the school, and said the Heimlich Maneuver is among the subjects she teaches her students. She now vows to include that life-saving instruction in every one of her classes going forward.
Four days after the incident, the pair had the ears of hundreds of students when they retold the story during a lunchtime assembly honoring Cesaretti.
"It was obviously a very emotional experience for both of them. So it's just all the way around, a good, positive story," said Tricia Rollerson, the school's principal.
Jose called his teacher his guardian angel and said he's thankful she saved his life.
Guardian angels are something Cesaretti said she's always believed in, and it's true now more than ever.
"I guess I was Jose's on Monday," she said.