Teachers at St. Jude help students continue to thrive academically while fighting cancer

Posted at 8:13 PM, Apr 25, 2012
and last updated 2012-04-25 20:13:20-04

The last time NewsChannel 3 checked on cancer survivor Carson Jones, we marveled at how well she excelled at her Chesapeake school.

Carson is an honor student despite multiple visits to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital over the years; visits that interrupted her education at times.

The same can be said of Lizzie Dorschel who battled back cancer and rose to the top of her Virginia Beach class last year.

If you wonder why academics don't fall by the wayside during treatment, the answer can be found inside of the vast campus of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

The same place where you find world-class doctors, and researchers, you'll also find teachers.

It's a typical classroom with a globe and colored pencils, but the teachers wear attire sporting expressions of cancer humor like 'the chemo ate my homework'.

Teacher Amanda Shelby-Little had to develop special coping skills.

“It's not just the education, it's the emotional part with it; getting close to some of the kids who don't make it through,” says Amanda.

For those who do make it, the teachers take advantage of that precious time between aggressive cancer treatments. They want the students to go back to their lives without an educational handicap.  Amanda smiles while telling the story of one of her recent students.

"He didn't get behind; he was in all the AP classes and he actually graduated 2nd in his class and made a 34 on his ACT, so he sends me letters and stuff all the time being in college and saying thank goodness you were there because you could help me on calculus and stuff like that,” says Amanda.

One former St. Jude patient who lives in Portsmouth said while she had cancer, she was hospitalized about 24 times during her school years.  Without the St. Jude teaching program, she would have had an academic mountain to climb.

It’s something to think about leading up to the St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway this weekend.  We hope you`ll join us. Tune in on Sunday at 11.