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TTE fifth graders go the extra mile

Showing support for their teacher – Fifth grade boys at Timber Trail Elementary shaved their heads as a tribute to their teacher, Jesica Harrington, center, who is battling stage three breast cancer. Fellow fifth-grade teacher Tony Greene, left, organized a mass head shaving in the cafeteria as a show of support for Harrington.

Article and photo by Lisa Crockett

Fifth grade is a time when most students begin to embrace big ideas – things like the size of the United States, say, or perhaps the infinite possibilities of long division. For the fifth graders at Timber Trail Elementary (TTE), some other big ideas have been a part of their curriculum this year, concepts that include empathy, selflessness and giving.

Last fall, Jesica Harrington, who teaches fifth grade on “D” track at TTE was thrilled to discover she was pregnant with twins. Then, tragedy struck. Harrington was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer and doctors discovered that one of her twins hadn’t survived the early stages of her pregnancy.

“I started chemotherapy in early February; I’ll do four rounds before the baby comes in May, then I’ll be back to chemotherapy and radiation after the baby comes,” said Harrington. “So far, me and the baby are both doing fine.”

With their teacher gone, Harrington’s students were a bit at a loss. They missed their teacher and wanted to wish her well in her hour of need. Enter fellow fifth grade teacher Tony Greene.

“We decided that since Jesica would be losing her hair, any fifth grade boy who wanted to would shave his head as a show of support,” said Greene. “We decided we would all shave our heads at school at the same time and call the event ‘Show Mrs. Harrington Your Love.’”

And so, with the blessing of their parents and the support of school administrators, all of Timber Trail’s fifth graders spent an afternoon in the school cafeteria, which was temporarily transformed into a barber shop. The girls got into the act by spray-painting their hair electric pink and cheering each boy as the buzz of the clippers left an ever larger number of boys bald and smiling.

“This isn’t fun for Mrs. Harrington and we’re going to have short hair together,” said fifth grader Bradley Smith, a student in Harrington’s class. “She the best teacher I’ve ever had. She has taught us how to be brave, even when we’re doing something really hard.”

As for Harrington, despite the rigors of her treatment, she was able to attend the event with her husband, Lance, and young daughter, Makenna, and even did a few of the haircuts herself. She is dumbfounded by the show of support.

“Words can’t describe how I feel about this. It’s incredible,” she said.

Harrington keeps a blog chronicling her progress so that students and well-wishers know how she is doing.

“I’m amazed at the love and support that has been given through all of this,” wrote Harrington in one entry. “I know one thing – I would not have the strength to endure all that I have if it weren’t for the beautiful people around me.”



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