Teacher fighting cancer stays connected through remote learning

Angela Rhoadarmer visits with students while she was in Kansas City following a bone marrow transplant.

Angela Rhoadarmer continued to teach while undergoing treatment in Kansas City

By Travis Mounts

CLEARWATER – Neither the coronavirus pandemic nor a battle with cancer has kept Angela Rhoadarmer from teaching her music students at Clearwater High School and Clearwater Intermediate-Middle School.
Rhoadarmer has been teaching remotely the entire year. She spent 100 days in Kansas City following a bone marrow transplant to treat her leukemia. She’s back home now and cancer free, but doctors are keeping her at home and out of the classroom for the rest of the year.
“There have been very few positive things with COVID. It’s not the same” teaching from home, she said.
Teaching remotely has been far better than not teaching at all.
“I think I needed them more than they needed me,” she said.
Teaching was a crucial activity while Rhoadarmer was away in Kansas City.
“It gave me a reason to get up in the morning, get dressed up and put on makeup, and teach,” she said.
Her cancer fight also showed students someone they knew dealing with something hard.
“It gave me a purpose, rather than sitting in a home that wasn’t mine,” said Rhoadarmer, who got her cancer diagnosis on Aug. 2.
There has a been a great support network for Rhoadarmer. Ila Klaus has served as long-term substitute at the high school and middle school. Anne Amstutz is Rhoadarmer’s co-teacher at the middle school.
Rhoadarmer has listened in to classes and offered direction. Additionally, she has been able to have one-on-one interactions during “Tribe Time,” with individual meetings to review grades and go over other things. Rhoadarmer continues to create lesson plans and organize events. She praised her fellow educators as well as the district for allowing her to continue teaching and for providing the help needed so that she could continue.
Rhoadarmer noted that Klaus was put into a unique situation as a long-term substitute.
“She’s dealt with something most subs don’t have to deal with, and that’s having a teacher in the room. She’s been the most wonderful teammate. She’s put up with a lot,” Rhoadarmer said.
Originally, Rhoadarmer thought she would be back in October. That moved to December. And then doctors told her she would not be cleared to teach in person this school year.
“If I could have been in that room, I would have been. But my doctors said ‘no,’ and I’m a rule follower,” she said.
The upside of the pandemic is that the technology and support systems were in place to keep Rhoadarmer connected to the classroom and her music students. She said the technology adopted by the district was huge, as were the connections with the students.
“The thing I want to do first with my students when I get back to school next fall is dance with them. I’m looking forward to just being with the kids, being there in person, high-fiving, smiling, making eye contact, and then hearing them sing in person. I’m looking forward to hearing that raw sound that I’m not getting on the computer,” she said.
Rhoadarmer was able to get a bone marrow donation from her brother, who was a perfect match. This road feels familiar to the Rhoadarmer family. Her husband, Lex, underwent treatment at KU Medical center 6-1/2 years ago for lymphoma.
The best part of the story is the status of Rhoadarmer’s health.
“I am right now cancer-free and doing great. I am on my way to a recovery,” she said.