Over the past 35 years, teacher Barb Heim has seen hundreds of students come and go in her first-grade classroom.
Still, Harrison Conner was an instant favorite! Barb said he’s “an amazing little guy” who loves to learn and gets along well with his classmates. When Harrison started feeling bad in late 2019, Barb was one of the first people to notice.
Barb realized that Harrison was pale and weak during recess, and he seemed to have no stamina to keep up with the other kids. She mentioned her concerns to the school nurse, who called Harrison’s mother, Suzanne Conner, just before winter break.
When they resumed classes in the new year, Barb learned that her hunch was correct. Harrison had been diagnosed with leukemia.
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His teacher and the rest of his community at Conneaut Valley Elementary School in Pennsylvania worked hard from the beginning to ensure he felt included. They showed their support in many ways, including a daily video call after recess so he could stay in touch with his friends.
When the novel coronavirus pandemic began, all classes were switched to remote learning. Harrison was able to keep up most days, but sometimes he was too sick to participate. So when students returned to the building the following fall and Harrison had to stay at home, Barb decided to bring his lessons to him!
Barb worried that Harrison would fall behind in his studies, so every day after school, she began driving 20 minutes to his house to give him an in-person lesson. They both wore masks and sat behind a plexiglass shield at his family’s dining room table. These meetings quickly became the highlight of the little boy’s day.
“It was a joy, because I knew he wanted to learn,” Barb said. “He couldn’t wait. He was so excited. And he’d have his off days if medicine was causing him to not feel up to it. It wasn’t the best day for him, but we made it through. And he always did his best.”
Harrison’s mom said Barb has been “absolutely amazing” since she heard about his diagnosis.
“It’s not like a teacher is coming from school to teach, she’s like an aunt who is coming over to hang out, and she brings goodies, and she is always bringing a smile,” Suzanne said. “My kids will meet her at the front door with all the latest news and it’s incredibly, incredibly, special.”
Harrison has finally reached remission, but he still has a long road of treatments ahead of him. No matter how tough the journey may be, we know Barb will be there to support her student every step of the way.
Share this story to thank Barb and all the other devoted educators out there.
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