We Are L.A. Unified

Barbara Healy Sprague, a third-grade teacher at Brooklyn Avenue Elementary School, was diagnosed in December 2012 with kidney cancer. Despite four surgeries, she has never discussed her medical condition in the classroom.

Yet her students have helped Barbara cope in ways that they may never know.  “The kids keep me young and fresh,” said Barbara, who is 53.  “It’s great to have (teaching them) to wake up too.”

After the first procedure, which involved removing a kidney, Barbara was off the job for two months.  During that time, her home was a prime destination for the staff at Brooklyn, where Barbara has taught for eight years.

They brought flowers, offered words of encouragement, delivered the latest news from campus.  The long-term substitute who took over Barbara’s class came by every weekend to go over lesson plans.

“Even when I felt really bad,” she said, “they kept in contact.”  

Awaiting her return to Brooklyn was a special group of fourth-grade students, one of the best classes Barbara said she’s had in a 30-year teaching career.  She had taught many of the same kids in third grade, and knew them to be fun, studious, and well-behaved. 

“If you had to get sick,” she said, “that was the group to have.”  

Though Barbara doesn’t know her prognosis, she said that her health has improved, in large measure due to what she called immune therapy.  Being in the classroom keeps her spirits high. 

“I’ve always loved my job.” 

-Thomas Waldman

Next: A student-athlete who is great at playing basketball, and is even better in the classroom.

To nominate a teacher, student, employee or volunteer, send an email to Thomas.Waldman@lausd.net, or call 213-241-6766.

See more profiles on the District's webpage or Facebook page.