Mackville students depict love for teacher
'Hands of Love' quilt given to teacher who battled cancer 2 years
By Jeff Kurowski
Compass Assistant Editor
Michelle Churchill hoped to surprise the first grade religious education class at St. Edward Parish, Mackville, with a pre-holiday visit, but the students had their own surprise in store.
Churchill, a first grade religious ed teacher who has been battling cancer for two years, was presented a hand-tied quilt featuring the students' hand prints and signatures, decorated hearts and the words "Hands of Love."
"It was wonderful," she said. "I had no idea whatsoever. I wanted to see them, so I had planned on stopping by that night and handing out the Christmas gifts to the kids. It was a nice surprise. I really had no idea."
A brain tumor limited Churchill's teaching availability during the first semester. While the fourth-year religious education teacher has not physically been around the students as much as she had hoped, she remains on their minds and in their hearts.
The students made Christmas cards for her the first week of December. The following week they presented Miss Michelle, as she is affectionately known, with a large decorated box filled with Christmas cookies, bars and candy they made with their parents.
"The kids were excited about doing these projects for her," said Pat Van Handel, who teaches religious education with Churchill. "They miss her. The parents have been very supportive. At this age it is so important to demonstrate giving. It is so neat to see how much the kids care about her. The quilt will allow us to surround her with our love."
The students covered the cost of the materials for the quilt through donations including money earned for doing small jobs around the house. Rose Biese, a parish member, sewed and tied the quilt, which features a burgundy back.
"Pat had asked me what my favorite color was," said Churchill. "I didn't know why at the time. It turned out beautiful. I would like to display it somehow. I show it to everyone. It is such a special gift."
Churchill, who along with her husband, Tom, are the parents of two adopted children, Tyler, 13, from Mexico, and Anna, nine, from Romania, describes her battle with cancer as "ongoing."
She said she is feeling better and will continue with chemotherapy, radiation or whatever treatment is necessary to get well. She hopes to resume teaching religious education in the new year.
"I really enjoy the six-year-olds," she said. "When I started, my daughter was in my class which was a nice experience."
"I've been very lucky," she said. "I feel very fortunate to work with such great kids and the people of the parish have been wonderful. They have brought over meals and helped us out. The congregation of St. Edward's is like that. I am very thankful."