I know Regina McCormack is a good teacher at the Arbor Hill Elementary School because Tenayah Williams tells me so.
“She’s my favorite teacher,” she says shyly. This is a Sunday. A day of no school. And two years since having Mrs. McCormack as her teacher, the youngster came out to support her Arbor Hill Elementary Faculty team to support McCormack’s fight against cancer.
“It didn’t surprise me when she told me she wanted to come today,” her mom, Tambra Williams said. “Mrs. McCormack always took so much time with Tenayah. She loves school and I think it’s because she loves her teacher from kindergarten.”
That love was shared by 80 others at Albany’s Making Strides event Oct. 16. There were so many people supporting Regina, it was hard to move around by the NYSUT tent at Washington Park. Many formed a specific team called Regina’s Rebels. McCormack has a lot of ties to NYSUT. She’s a proud member of the Albany Public School Teachers Association, and several in her family are members of other NYSUT locals (Shenendehowa TA and Greenville Paraprofessionals). Her sister, Jen Deso, works in NYSUT’s Research Department.
McCormack found out her diagnosis in July. Cancer is not in her family, so finding out at age 44 that she is already in stage 3 of aggresive form of cancer was a shock.
She started chemotherapy in September and is on medical leave. She brightens when she talks about teaching.
“Oh, I love everything about my job. There’s nothing better than teaching a child how to read. To be there when they crack that code is magical,” she said.
As much as she misses her colleagues and the kids, she is grateful for the time off. “There’s no way you can teach when you are tired,” she said.
Getting her through has been the support of her large extended family.
“You know the lessons about the geese?” she asks me. I do. Written by Robert McNeish of Baltimore in 1972, her favorite is how geese work in teams. When the lead goose tires, it falls back into another spot in the V formation and another goose flies to the point position.
“That’s our family philosophy. When one of us is down, everybody else pitches in to help out,” she said. “We’re always looking out for each other.”
Hence the motto of Regina’s Rebels: “We’re in this together.”
Here’s a pic of NYSUT’s Maria Neira talking with Regina right before the walk starts.