Teacher undergoing chemo helps students tackle lessons ‘head’ on

A middle school student cuts the hair of her teacher, Julie Seiz, on the first day of the new school year at St. Catherine of Siena. (courtesy photo)

The middle school language arts teacher at St. Catherine of Siena had her summer travel plans all mapped out until a cancer diagnosis re-wrote her life’s next chapter.

Julie Seiz spent the summer routing a string of daily appointments to medical specialists instead. She returned to the classroom this month as the new school year got under way and had a typical review lesson planned for students. Its delivery, however, was far more memorable.

To warm the students up for the school year, she asked them review questions about everything from parts of speech to how to analyze and critique literature. A correct answer meant an immediate invitation to come up and cut off a strand of her hair. At first it was hard for the students because they felt bad about doing it, but she assured them that the hair would be gone within a matter of days anyhow.

Students were excited about the new year and proud that they had retained so much information over the summer. The real lesson though, was not that it’s fun to cut the teacher’s hair, but rather how to find courage and joy in life’s challenges. Just like some subjects are harder for some students than others, a joyful heart and a positive attitude will carry you to where God wants you to be for Him.

Middle school students pose with their teacher, Julie Seiz, on the first day of the new school year at St. Catherine of Siena, after cutting Seiz’s hair. Seiz is undergoing chemotherapy for cancer. (courtesy photo)

As the year proceeds, and their teacher goes through the challenges of chemo and radiation, Seiz’s students will be there for her. Someone once asked Seiz, a Kansas City transplant, if she’d rather be there going through this. She just smiled and said she was right where she wanted to be…with her St. Catherine’s family.

The hair cutting continues at St. Catherine, an inner-city school with 220-some students. Three other teachers held a raffle competition this week with one winner per teacher awarded scissors to cut his or her teacher’s hair. The final total isn’t in yet, but it’s reportedly in the triple digits.