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Hospital Classroom

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It may not be immediately obvious, but some chronically and terminally ill children need school. It’s a routine that returns them to normality (a time when they weren’t confined to a hospital bed), and implicit in the education process is the idea that, yes, one day I will get better and use what I’m learning. That’s what the New York City Department of Education is banking on by employing 87 licensed teachers who serve 550 students in 42 city hospitals. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, for example, has been the site of state exams, graduation ceremonies, and even proms. One of its teachers, Anne Marie Cicciu, had a rough time when she first taught in the cancer ward, not knowing how to read the signs, in chemotherapy patients, of nausea and fatigue. Cicciu is Catholic, but she’s since clung to the Buddhist belief in reincarnation. She also revels in the good days with her students, including Jessica Kuebler, a 7-year-old from St. Louis who’s had cancer since she was two months old and must return intermittently to Sloan-Kettering for treatment and tests. During a recent lesson, Jessica finished a book about a lost baby bird that eventually finds its way home. “Look at how well you read that,” Cicciu told her student. “I know you’ll make it home, too, Jessie.”

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Here in Baltimore County Public Schools, Home and Hospital Center teachers instruct homebound students by conference telephone classes (up to 20+ in a class), one on one in the homes or at hospitals, and with real time web conferencing. We are very proud of our work which even some teachers in our 115,000 student district are not aware of. Our students are pregnant, physically ill, emotionally ill, have surgeries, recovering from injury, or are expelled. Our center has operated with telephone classes for over 35 years. Some students have even been schooled their whole careers with us due to serious conditions. We follow district curricula and administer standardized tests. We use Latitude for data and phone conferencing. It's a unique school with unique teachers.

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