PARMA, Ohio — Donna Kucera has been missing from her fifth-grade classroom at Greenbriar Middle School in Parma. For the last seven months, the teacher of 30 years has been receiving treatment for triple negative breast cancer.
“Just when we found out I was like, ‘This was the wrong person for this to happen to,’” said Jennifer Wagner, a teacher at Greenbriar who works closely with Kucera. “But she overcame it.”
Kucera is now ready to return to work, as students head back to the classroom for the first day of school on Sept. 5. The journey she’s walked has inspired both Kucera’s students and colleagues.
“If anyone was going to beat it, it would be Donna,” Wagner said.
In late August, WKYC teamed with supercenter chain Meijer to surprise Kucera as she prepared to return to work.
The wife and mother of three thought she was attending a summer meeting about her classroom. But when she walked into her room, her colleagues, husband, 3News' Danielle Wiggins and representatives from Meijer were all there to surprise Kucera with a cake, flowers and an $850 Meijer shopping spree.
“Welcome back!” the group shouted as a shocked Kucera entered the room.
"Mrs. Kucera, from one breast cancer survivor to another, I want to welcome you back to your school year,” said Wiggins, who publicly battled breast cancer in 2022.
Kucera’s story even having an impact on Corporate America.
“We heard about her story, and we were really inspired,” said Sheila Dowgiert, a store director with Meijer. “We know that teachers spend around $850 out of their own pockets to help buy supplies for their classroom so we wanted to donate the $850 to her.”
It’s a reward after a difficult season.
“It's been a rough seven months, but I did it,” Kucera said. “It was hard giving up my classroom and handing it over to somebody else, but I knew that my team was going to help them along, and they did, and they were fantastic.
The teacher, now herself, learning valuable lessons about life as a difficult journey end.
“Don't be afraid to ask for help and a cancer diagnosis is not a death notice,” the educator shared.
Kucera said a recent pathology report showed no signs of cancer. She’s happy to get her life back to normal.
“I want to just continue to bring positivity to my students,” Kucera explained. “I’m going to let them know, ‘Hey, you can overcome anything, look what your teacher did.’”
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