Kelly Klein requested her school principal to let her keep teaching as she underwent chemotherapy when her cancer returned.
Kelly Klein is a kindergarten teacher based in Minnesota. She first fought cancer five years ago, when she was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer. At the time, she took six months off from her teaching career to recuperate following her aggressive treatment. Unfortunately, her cancer returned last summer. She was diagnosed a second time with ovarian cancer as everyone sheltered in place and schools went virtual. This time around, however, Klein decided to continue teaching even as she underwent chemotherapy. So, she found a way to make it work for her students at Falcon Heights Elementary in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, where she has taught for the past 32 years, Good Morning America reports.
“I want them to see that cancer isn’t a death sentence,” 32-year-old Kelly Klein said. “You can still be happy and playful and silly and funny and energized.” https://t.co/g6BAKiXfOA— Dakota News Now (@dakotanews_now) January 13, 2021
Falcon Heights Elementary is the same school she attended as a young child. Evidently, the school has had an impact on her life. Therefore, she wanted to continue to give back despite the challenging treatment. "I'm going to make the most of my time," she affirmed in an interview with Good Morning America. "I don't take anything for granted." When she received her diagnosis, she informed the school principal, Beth Behnke, that she wished to keep teaching as long as was feasible. Therefore, the pair developed a plan so Klein could undergo chemotherapy while teaching.
Kindergarten teacher Kelly Klein isn’t letting cancer get in the way of her teaching. During her hours of chemotherapy, Klein brings her spunk and positive attitude to her online classroom. https://t.co/dewRe5n938 pic.twitter.com/4VlbOv9DBr— Good Morning America (@GMA) January 17, 2021
The kindergarten teacher has converted the facility she receives her treatment, M Health Fairview Lakes Medical Center in Wyoming, Minnesota, into a temporary classroom. One day every month, she visits the facility to undergo chemotherapy, which lasts nearly five hours long. During these appointments, she brings along her laptop and other supplies so she can teach her five and six-year-old students. Klein stated, "Teaching five-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. 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."
Kelly Klein teaches her kindergarten class on Zoom from the hospital, while receiving chemo for a second bout with ovarian cancer. The Falcon Heights Elem teacher says the kids give her strength - while she's teaching lessons that transcend school. KARE tonite@10p #land10kstories pic.twitter.com/ldtmRgtmi8— Boyd Huppert (@BoydHuppert) January 5, 2021
As the entire school held online classes, the teacher's lessons were not particularly any different. So far, Principal Behnke has not received any complaints from parents. In fact, she has received messages of praise from her faculty member. She said of Klein, "She's a very beloved teacher and she deserves it because she's the type of teacher who shows up every year. 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." According to the principal, she wasn't surprised the least when Klein wished to continue working through chemotherapy. "I was not surprised because of who she is as a person and what teaching means to her," Behnke added. "It's her tapestry."
As elementary school teacher Kelly Klein undergoes treatment for cancer, she’s finding strength from her students. pic.twitter.com/k9qpad1n61— NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt (@NBCNightlyNews) January 16, 2021
For Klein, being able to spend time with her students, even virtually, has helped her get through her treatment. She claimed her students have been a "bright spot" for her over the past few days. "I get the energy from the kids like they get the energy from me," she said."I get as much out of it as the kids." Over the 30 years, she has spent as a teacher, she has taught hundreds of kindergarteners and many of them still reach out to her. She shared, "I've had a ton of students message me and say that I was 'that teacher' for them, that I'm the teacher they remembered. That's all I ever wanted, was to be that teacher for kids. To read that back, it was super emotional. That's all you want as a teacher, to be that teacher for someone."
Oh my what a shero! Bless her.— GRITS7OF8 (@GRITS7OF8) January 17, 2021