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Sunday, June 7, 2015

YOU Made a Difference

Grade 4 Class of 2006-2007
As teachers we often wonder if we "make a difference" in the lives of our students.  (In reality and in our hearts we know that somewhere in our career, we MUST have positively impacted someone.)

But, I wonder do our students ever WONDER if they have made a difference in OUR life?  I'm not so sure they think too long about it as they progress to the next level.

Today some of my former students graduate and I'd like to share the story of why this ENTIRE class made a difference in MY life!

In July 2006 I heard those three words no one ever should hear: "You have Cancer!" I immediately thought of my young family and then started thinking about my 4th grade class.  Starting off the year was not going to be a possibility as I had to undergo some aggressive chemotherapy treatments.  The teary call made to my principal was one I'll always remember because I assured him that I WOULD BE returning as soon as my doctors gave me the okay (sometime in January or February).  

 Throughout the next few months I received countless notes and cards from "my" students. (My students: these kiddos knew me only through their siblings or through school assemblies or interactions in the hallways.) Yet they still acted as if I were their teacher! They told me about their likes, their dislikes and their goals and dreams.   On my occasional visits to the classroom (where I would receive "elbow" hugs) their faces would light up with stories of what they were learning and always, always the question "when are you coming back?" These children embraced me without really even knowing me.  Their desire for me to return to "them" is what kept me motivated, positive and above all else, STRONG!

I DID indeed return to them (cancer free!) in late February where I was given a rousing round of applause and a tee-shirt that I still have to this day!  Walking into the classroom on that first day back, to those students who had such faith in me, I felt like I had known them all along!!

Written by Kyle in Grade 5
The story doesn't end their as it never does! The following year when the students were in Grade 5 I asked them to write some acrostic poems for some Cancer Survivors for the Relay for Life.  The poems they wrote were placed inside the Survivor's Tent at the local Relay.  After reading the poems, many tear-filled survivors commented about the inspiration and the positiveness that emanated from these young students!

Over the years, these students have remained dear to my heart as I heard they participated in the School Competition of the National Geography Bee; or the Middle School play, or became volunteers at After School programs for Kids; or scored many goals for the hockey team; or helped out with the Film Festival; moved or went off to a different school! 

Because of your faith, your encouragement, your desire to have me back in the classroom, your notes and gifts - because of YOU,  I BEAT Cancer!  You have MADE A DIFFERENCE in my life and I THANK YOU as you graduate on this beautiful day! I'm sure you'll continue to make a difference in the lives of many others!
WHS Graduation June 2015
As a final note:  I know the students wrote to me, made cards, presented me with gifts through the tutelage of my substitute that year.  Nancy Farris, none of that would have happened without you!  Your inspiration and your insistence that I visit the classroom (whether I was ready or not) absolutely helped me get through that tough part of my life!  I THANK YOU as YOU continue to MAKE A DIFFERENCE in my life!

So if you know or see:  Nancy F., Rachel, Allison, Kendall, Patrick, Oscar, Nick, Kyle, Jonathan, Angela, Chris, Andie, Madison, Meagan, Megan W, Mike, Stephanie, Lucy, Ashley, Emilee, Lolita, John, Joe, Kody, Dan, or Helen please tell them how they have made a difference in YOUR life!



  1. So if this post didn't bring I tear to my eye, I would be lying! Nancy, it is easy to see why you inspire so many in all walks of life. I would bet you that no one ever thinks of how they reach the hearts of their teacher. I hope that this graduating class gets an opportunity to read this post along with every student everywhere.

    Rock on Nancy Carroll! As you inspire, teach, guide and walk your path, you are so loved by so many people. (As well as your students!)

  2. Honestly, I would say that each year I am inspired by my students. The risks they take in the classroom, their openness and willingness to share, their wonder and curiosity, their perseverance when things aren't easy - these are just some of the ways that students make me pause in awe. Not sure why I don't write about it, but I think I try to capture pieces of it sometimes in my posts. I feel I'm one very lucky teacher!

    Thank you Cal for always taking the time to comment.

  3. Nancy,
    What an awesome story! Your young students grew up and graduated. You beat cancer. I didn't know this about you. Beautiful, touching and lovely recounting of the difference Nancy and the sweet children made in your fight and recovery.

    Thank you for sharing,

  4. Oh how I wish I could wrap my arms around you right now and give you a great, big hug! You, my friend, make a difference in the lives of all the people you touch. Whether it be students in your classroom, your family and friends in your community, or your "extended online family", you are truly an inspiration to those around you.

    This was a shock to read because I did not know you are a cancer survivor. May you continue to touch lives in that special way only Nancy Carroll can. I am so fortunate to know you and call you "friend".

    (P.S. Happy Birthday!)


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