Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes
This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.
WELLSVILLE — This is the story of Rita Allen, a kindergarten teacher for the past 22 years at Wellsville Elementary School in Cache Valley.
"(The students) are enthusiastic about learning, and I love to see the growth they make in a nine-month period of time," Allen said.
But this is also a story of one empty chair: One of Mrs. Allen's 16 students has been absent for over three months.
At the end of September, 5-year-old Spencer Felt wasn't feeling well. After testing, he was rushed to Primary Children's Medical Center.
I knew of the suffering he was going through, and I wanted him to know his teacher cared about him still — that he could still learn even though he was in a critical situation.
–Rita Allen, kindergarten teacher
"When we got there, they did x-rays and we found out it was his heart. So, he was put in (the) ICU, and it was just four days later we were told he'd need a heart transplant," explained Nancy Felt, Spencer's mother.
Spencer received that transplant on Dec. 16. But during the 10 weeks before that, Mrs. Allen never forgot him. Several times during his three-month hospital stay, she would make the long drive from her home in Cache Valley to the hospital in Salt Lake City, taking him projects to work on and leaving him with the knowledge he was loved and missed.
"Because I'm his teacher, and he's my student," Allen explained. "I know his family's heartache. I knew of the suffering he was going through, and I wanted him to know his teacher cared about him still — that he could still learn even though he was in a critical situation."
They weren't empty words," Nancy Felt said. "She showed up and made a box of Spencer's school supplies. And what was neat to me was one particular time there were nurses watching through the glass, and they were crying. They said, ‘We've been here a long time and we've never seen anything like this. She's amazing.'"
While Mrs. Allen continues in her classroom, Spencer's mother teaches him from home while he continues to recover. She hopes he'll be able to return to school before the end of the year.
Spencer misses his teacher. "Mrs. Allen is a nice teacher," he said.
Mrs. Allen misses Spencer too, and she'll continue to do her part to make sure he keeps pace with his classmates. "My hope is he will be able to continue on to first grade with them; and throughout his education, be able to move on with his friends, that he'll be ready with all the skills he needs to function well in first grade," she said.
With a teacher as caring as Mrs. Allen, Spencer should have a very bright future.