Faith leads teacher through cancer, quarantine

Teresa Schrant, Holy Family Elementary School fourth-grade teacher, has been a teacher with the Hays Catholic school system for 40 years. She is May’s Hays Post Teacher of the Month.

By CRISTINA JANNEY
Hays Post

One of the happiest days of Teresa Schrant’s teaching career was the beginning of the spring semester when she was allowed to return to school.

Schrant, a fourth-grade teacher at Holy Family Elementary School, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma cancer in 2019. She spent a month in Kansas City, where she underwent a stem cell transplant. When she returned home in mid-2020, she was quarantined in her house for months, only allowed to walk up and down her block as long as she didn’t stop to talk to anyone.

Schrant was not allowed back into her classroom for the entire year of 2020.

“I was so ready to come back,” she said. “It was so hard to stay back in the spring after Christmas [2019] because I felt good.”

She said she missed teaching so much. She snuck up to the school a few times and greeted the kids from a distance.

“I’m not done teaching yet,” she said. “I love what I’m doing.”

Although Schrant’s cancer is in remission, her mother was placed on Hospice shortly before the end of the school year as a result of a long-term illness. She said her faith and the support of her school and faith communities meant so much to her in her time of struggle. 

“I have people who can support me through their prayers and their faith,” she said. “I can support other people through my prayers and my faith. We have to help lift each other up.”

Schrant continued to teach religion classes via Zoom, even though she was quarantined in her home. She said she could only know her students through their masks and a screen, which was very hard.

“I think teaching here has helped me to grow in my faith,” she said of Holy Family. “For that reason, hopefully, I can help the kids grow in their faith because they come seeking to find their faith in the world. We have a hard world to fit in.”

“It is really important for me to teach them they will always have their faith that they can rely on if nothing else is there.”

Schrant has spent her entire 40-year career with Hays Catholic schools. She started teaching at the former St. Joseph School and eventually moved to Holy Family.

Schrant regularly has in her class what she calls “grand students,” children of her former students.

The mother of one of those students nominated her for the Hays Post Teacher of the Month.

“I had Mrs. Schrant when I was in the second grade, and still to this day, she is very special to me,” said Ann Gottschalk, parent. “Justin is my last child at Holy Family, and for Justin to have Mrs. Schrant for his fourth-grade teacher, it made the year even more special.

“Mrs. Schrant is one in a million. We are very lucky to have Mrs. Schrant at Holy Family. [She] is one of the best teachers around. She loves the kids and the kids love her. She treats each kid with so much love.”

Schrant said her greatest challenge is to motivate kids who don’t like school or who feel friendless to want to be at school every morning.

When the principal announces the students aren’t going to have school, she teases her students, “You better cry. No cheering. You have to be sad that you’re not going to be here tomorrow.”

“Every year, I think this is the best year I’ve ever had,” she said. “I can only think of two years out of the 40 that I thought, ‘I don’t think I can do this anymore.'”

The best advice she said has been given was from a principal who was nun. She told her never to quit teaching after a hard year, because you will always have that bad taste in your mouth.

“I have been lucky that I have had good year, after good year, after good year, and I’m still here,” she said.

Schrant, 62, said she wants to keep teaching as long as she can continue to be effective with her students. She has no plans to retire any time soon.

She will spend her summer compiling some of the 500 pictures she has taken during the school year in a yearbook for just the students in her class, a project she has undertaken every year since 2006.

Schrant is already looking forward to the first day of school in the fall, which is her favorite day of the school year.

“I love the first day of school,” she said. “[It’s] new kids, new class, new opportunities, new starts, new beginnings,” she said.

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