For the next seven months, Nan Collins hopes her art and Spanish classes at Centennial High School can return to normal. Thus far, they've been anything but for the veteran educator.
Collins, 58, was diagnosed with breast cancer in late August and has missed about five weeks of school to undergo treatment.
While she has stayed in touch with some students and her substitutes throughout her absence, Collins returned to Centennial Nov. 5 – something she thought would be the "best medicine" she could get.
"It's good therapy for me," she said. "I don't want to be sitting around thinking about myself all day. That wouldn't be a good experience."
Collins was informed by her doctors during an appointment after the third day of school that she had an early stage of breast cancer. Despite telling her students shortly thereafter that she would be missing time, she continued to teach at Centennial for three weeks so her students and substitutes would be prepared for lessons during her time away.
Throughout the past two months, Collins raved about the support she received from friends, family and colleagues from Centennial, which includes a dining room full of flowers and emails and cards from parents and students.
Collins specifically mentioned her subsititutes Marti Wensel and Charlie Wehr along with her Centennial art colleagues Mark Hanssen and Jo Tulkoff as those who have helped her during the time out of class.
"It couldn't be better," she said of the support she's been given.
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In the weeks before she returned to Centennial, Collins joked that she may not remember the names of some new students, but said she was more concerned with not being prepared each week to teach her students due to time missed for treatment.
"The more normal I appear and the more normal the classroom is, the better for them," she said. "They also have struggles in their lives and school needs to be a place where they escape those troubles."