Minnesota kindergarten teacher explains why she's refusing to take time off during chemotherapy
via Good Morning America

Anyone who's an educator knows that teaching is about a lot more than a paycheck. "Teaching is not a job, but a way of life, a lens by which I see the world, and I can't imagine a life that did not include the ups and downs of changing and being changed by other people," Amber Chandler writes in Education Week.

So it's no surprise that Kelly Klein, 54, who's taught at Falcon Heights Elementary in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, for the past 32 years still teaches her kindergarten class even as she is being treated for stage-3 ovarian cancer.

Her class is learning remotely due to the COIVD-19 pandemic, so she is able to continue doing what she loves from her computer at M Health Fairview Lakes Medical Center in Wyoming, Minnesota, even while undergoing chemotherapy.


"I'm going to make the most of my time," Klein told "Good Morning America." "I don't take anything for granted."

Klein battled cancer five years ago and had to take off about six months due to treatments. But this time, she swore she wouldn't let that happen again. For Klein, teaching gives her the ability to keep her spirits up in a depressing situation.

"Teaching 5-year-olds I always say is like going to Disney World. Everything is exciting and they're so excited about everything that it gets me excited," said Klein. "When you're at chemo and you're around a lot of sick people, it's kind of a depressing place to be. For me, to be around 5-year-olds during that time, it's like a slice of normalcy in an abnormal environment."

Klein told CBS News that her students give her strength. "It's real easy to go down the 'Why me?' — and I think if I didn't have five-year-olds to teach every day, I would spend a lot of time thinking about that," Klein said.

She also hopes that by continuing to teach she can show her students and their families that even with cancer, people can continue to live.

After the mother of two learned she had cancer last summer, she pleaded with her principal Beth Behnke to stay on the job. "Please don't make me take a leave," she told Behnke who was "not surprised because of who she is as a person and what teaching means to her. It's her tapestry."

"She's a very beloved teacher and she deserves it because she's the type of teacher who shows up every year," Behnke said of Klein. "And what she's doing is part of living in our world, just helping kids manage through lots of situational things that don't have to define us but are part of our lived experience."

Receiving a cancer diagnosis has to be completely devastating. But two doctors from Stanford have noticed that one of the most important factors in recovery is maintaining the desire to continue living. "Patients with positive attitudes are better able to cope with disease-related problems and may respond better to therapy," Ernest H. Rosenbaum, M.D. and Isadora R. Rosenbaum, M.A. writes.

Klein's decision to continue teaching may mean a lot more than finding fulfillment in a tough situation, it could prolong her life.

True

Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

Keep Reading Show less

Our collective childhoods have been forever influenced by the imaginative, heartwarming stories of Roald Dahl. Classics like Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, Matilda, and Fantastic Mr. Fox continue to grace bookshelves, movie screens, and even the stages of Broadway.

But today, on what would have been Dahl's 104th birthday, we're going to share one of his lesser known- yet arguably most provocative-works of literature.


Keep Reading Show less