Hospital Classroom

September 27, 2006 1 min read

It may not be immediately obvious, but some chronically and terminally ill children need school. It’s a routine that returns them to normality (a time when they weren’t confined to a hospital bed), and implicit in the education process is the idea that, yes, one day I will get better and use what I’m learning. That’s what the New York City Department of Education is banking on by employing 87 licensed teachers who serve 550 students in 42 city hospitals. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, for example, has been the site of state exams, graduation ceremonies, and even proms. One of its teachers, Anne Marie Cicciu, had a rough time when she first taught in the cancer ward, not knowing how to read the signs, in chemotherapy patients, of nausea and fatigue. Cicciu is Catholic, but she’s since clung to the Buddhist belief in reincarnation. She also revels in the good days with her students, including Jessica Kuebler, a 7-year-old from St. Louis who’s had cancer since she was two months old and must return intermittently to Sloan-Kettering for treatment and tests. During a recent lesson, Jessica finished a book about a lost baby bird that eventually finds its way home. “Look at how well you read that,” Cicciu told her student. “I know you’ll make it home, too, Jessie.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.