Madisonville elementary school students support teacher after cancer diagnosis

Madisonville elementary school students support teacher after cancer diagnosis
Published: Mar. 2, 2023 at 6:28 PM CST
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MADISONVILLE, Ky. (WFIE) - An elementary school teacher in Madisonville was diagnosed with cancer last month. School officials say when her students found out, they took the lead in showing their support.

The students in Mrs. Watkins’ 4th-grade class think highly of their teacher.

“She is really thoughtful,” said Lilly Nelson.

“She’s caring and she’s really nice,” said Rhylee Faulk.

“She’s kind, and caring, and thoughtful,” said Brayden Sedgwick.

“She is very loving and she loves all of us,” said Arabella Ettleman.

School officials say it was Feb. 3 when Laura Watkins was diagnosed positive for cancer. They say she wanted to keep her students in the loop, so they weren’t confused as she missed time or lost her hair.

They say the announcement caused a lot of tears, for students and faculty alike.

“It was taken very hard, by all of us,” said friend and fellow teacher Sarah Neathery.

They say immediately after hearing the news, her students started brainstorming how they could show their support. They gave her gifts, cards, homemade crafts and more.

“And of course all the hugs,” said Neathery.

School officials say Mrs. Watkins reached out to parents to let them know before making the announcement to the kids. The parents say they were eager to help as well.

When the kids had the idea for special shirts, their parents helped them make it a reality. They surprised Mr. Watkins with them Wednesday, the day before she started chemo.

The community played a part as well. Grandparents and others sponsored kids to ensure they could all have a shirt.

One parent says it means a lot to see everything her daughter wanted to do.

“To see that empathy and compassion that she’s showing, it was a proud mom moment,” said Angela Faulk, a parent to one of Mrs. Watkins’ students.

The signs of love aren’t done either. School officials say on Monday, Mrs. Watkins will return to find clovers in the hallway around her classroom door, each from a student sharing a reason they say they’re lucky to have her.

They also wear pink every Wednesday in her honor, and some have even dyed their hair.

“These kids have surprised us all,” said Neathery. “I mean, they’ve grown and matured since August, and just watching their growth and how they’ve handled this, I said they may not have learned reading and math this year but they’ve sure learned empathy.”

To make sure the kids don’t miss her too much while she’s away, Mrs. Watkins printed out a picture of herself that the kids take to recess, classes, lunch and more.