January 28, 2005

2005 Catholic Schools Week Supplement

Catholic school students rally
to help teacher with cancer struggle

Updated details at the end of the story

By Brandon A. Evans

Barbara Mauch has been teaching at St. Monica School in Indianapolis for 17 years, and wasn’t about to stop when she started chemotherapy for breast cancer last summer.

The chemo meant that she was going to miss one or two days of school each week until the end of October.

But while she was doing her best to get to school as often as possible, her new class of fifth-graders was figuring out how to help her.

A group of three girls, assisted by their parents, wanted to get at least 25 other students to join them in the “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer” walk on Oct. 9 at White River State Park in Indianapolis. The proceeds benefit the American Cancer Society.

The “March for Mauch” ended up more successful than they thought.

“We got 70 kids,” said Kayla Delaney, a fifth-grade student.

The students raised more than $2,000, and also got parents and teachers to join the walk.

“Mrs. Mauch is a great teacher and we wanted to do something special for her to support her in her cancer,” said Jordan Diagostino, a fifth-grade student.

Everyone who walked had a good time, she said. “You could tell—they liked it.”

Michael Conway, a fifth-grade student, said that when the class told her about the plans, Mauch was overwhelmed.

“I’m so proud of them—after all, this is totally amazing,” Mauch said. This shows that her students are “just exactly what we want Catholic school children to be.”

Part of her surprise when she found out about the walk was that she had just met her new class of fifth-grade students.

“I cried,” she said.

The opening ceremony on the day of walk—a Saturday—was at 7:30 a.m., so the students made, for them, a considerable sacrifice.

“And it was a cold morning,” Mauch said. “I mean, it was not pleasant to be down there.”

She’s his teacher, Michael said, and he cares about her—and is proud of her.

“We’re the ones that make her get up every morning and go to chemo,” Kayla said.

Mauch was not able to make it to the event because she was too sick. She was, though, feeling better in the last months of 2004, and was no longer missing any school. She had surgery over the Christmas break.

“You have to appreciate what our teachers go through,” said Mary Delaney, Kayla’s mother.

When she initially heard that her child’s teacher was sick, Delaney was concerned about how the year might work out, and if the situation would be too difficult on the children emotionally.

But her daughter came home excited about having Mauch as her teacher.

“I think she has taught them much more than our normal curriculum so far this year,” Delaney said.

“I think the big thing even is not to panic when they hear the word that someone has cancer,” Mauch said. “I did my darndest to be here. I’m here now. I’ve taken my wig off.”

As the year continues, one of the girls said that she would gladly do the walk again.

“I would like to do it again,” said Audrey Lee, fifth-grade student. “It made me feel really good.” †  

Update: Since this story was published, Barbara Mauch sent a note to let us know that after her surgery over Christmas break the cancer is now gone.


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