MEMPHIS, Tenn. (KSNW) – St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital prides itself on treating the whole child. That means while patients undergo life-saving treatment, they continue building for the future at a fully-accredited K-12 school.
“I have the honor of teaching K-12, so I get the whole gamut of these wonderful children,” said Tracy Long, an ESL teacher at St. Jude.
Long knows the challenges that come with teaching a wide range of ages and subjects and recognizes it’s nothing compared to the challenges these kids face. Imagine a child saying going to class is the best part of his or her day.
“For these kids, coming into this school is their hope,” she told us with tears welling in her eyes. “It’s their chance to get away from it all and be normal kids. And when you hear comments like that, you see how much it does mean to them and how much it does make a difference in their day.”
Teachers spend intense one-on-one time with students between treatment and therapy. They keep in touch with their teachers back home and tailor each one’s classwork to match up with what their friends are learning.
“We hope for the process to be seamless so when they go back home they haven’t lost any time,” Long said. “The grades they receive from our teachers are the grades that will go on their transcripts.”
For some, that means reaching major milestones at St. Jude and a rite of passage no child should miss.
“A lot of people don’t know that we have two special days a year: a kindergarten graduation and a high school graduation and those are just super fun, exciting days here.”
St. Jude treats children from all across the world, and that’s why ESL, English as a Second Language, is so important to the St. Jude curriculum.
Miss Tracy, as she’s known, is fluent in Spanish, but has taught students who speak everything from Arabic to Chinese. And she says it’s those students who tend to pick up English faster. The non-Spanish speakers are immersed in English and adapt out of necessity.
But they all share the universal language at St. Jude, which is hope. Students and teachers navigate each set of obstacles as a team.
“The happy hopeful days far outnumber the sad hopeless days,” Long told us.
Miss Tracy’s eight years at St. Jude have taught her that, and every day, she’s reminded she’s right where she’s meant to be.
“My heart is in it 100%, and I have always said that this is an honor more than a job.”