Teacher Helped Her First Grade Student Study as He Battled Cancer: 'It Was a Joy'

Barbara Heim of Conneaut Valley Elementary School made sure her student, Harrison Conner, didn't fall behind while battling cancer

Barbara Heim — Teacher Visits Student with Cancer Every Day so He Doesn't Fall Behind
Photo: Courtesy Barbara Heim

One Pennsylvania teacher went above and beyond to make sure her first-grade student didn't fall behind while he battled cancer.

Barbara Heim of Conneaut Valley Elementary School began video-calling and visiting her student, Harrison Conner, at his home after he was diagnosed with leukemia last year, she told Today.

Heim, who has taught for 35 years at the school, wanted to make sure Harrison kept up with his work so that he was prepared for the new school year once he recovered.

"It was a joy, because I knew he wanted to learn," she told the outlet. "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," Heim added. "And he always did his best."

Heim told Today that she first noticed something was amiss with Harrison when he became less active during recess in late 2019. He would also turn pale during playtime.

Harrison's family would later learn he had leukemia, a cancer that attacks the bone marrow and the lymphatic system, according to Mayo Clinic. The disease causes the body to produce a high amount of abnormal white blood cells, which don't operate correctly.

"Oh, he's an amazing little guy," Heim said of Harrison. "He is so much fun in class. You could have 100 of him in a classroom, and you would still take more because he has that sense about him. He wants to learn. He loves to learn new things."

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Harrison is continuing with his treatment but is now in remission, according to Today. He'll continue with his remote learning, and he and his family are grateful for all the time Heim has devoted to him.

"It goes far beyond her just coming here for school," Suzanne Conner, Harrison's mother, told Today of Heim.

"Ever since the minute he was diagnosed ... she has been absolutely amazing," she added. "She has kept Harrison such a part of the kids' lives in school and making sure that he feels remembered."

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