Educator Leslie Johnston helps kids in the hematology oncology unit at Children’s National Hospital keep up with school during lengthy stays. “It’s a one-room school house kind of situation,” she says. The school room is a bright, lively place full of books, pencils and often, laughter. Leslie’s goal is to help patients avoid the added stress of missed classroom time. It’s also about having fun.
“Ms. Leslie” teaches kindergarten through eighth grade. One lesson might involve practicing the alphabet with a preschooler. The next might be translating algebra with a middle schooler. She works directly with her students’ teachers to get assignments. “We can be creative about how we get the work done,” she says. “If we’re learning about the scientific method, for instance, we might make slime — if the nurses say it’s OK.”
How her students feel also matters to her. “I don’t push too hard,” Leslie says. “Some days when a patient is feeling great, we run hard. Other days we’ll crawl through.” Her colleague Vanessa Rudzinski teaches high school students. They teach about 40 patients a year in our Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders.
“On this team, we’re each part of a really cool puzzle,” Leslie says. “My students and our coworkers inspire me daily. I always tell people, ‘Children’s National has the right people on the bus,’ to help kids live strong.’ This job enables me to rest in hope every day.”
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