Golden Apple: They make sure young hospital patients don’t fall behind

Golden Apple

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — It’s not a traditional classroom at USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital. But Dr. Anne Vella, Mary Day Lantaff, and Kristen Bearden try to make it as traditional as possible for their students, all patients at the hospital. Their program is called the ‘Class Act’ program and their goal is to make sure kids who have to stay in the hospital don’t fall behind at school.

“We try to meet them on the first day that they’re here…and we either teach them in the classroom if they are able to come out or we go room to room,” said Kristen Bearden.

The program was started by Dr. Vella 29 years ago. All three teachers are associated with the Mobile County Public School System through a partnership with the hospital. They teach students from kindergarten through high school, no matter which school system they come from. Since the program began, they’ve taught thousands of students.

“Right now we’re up to maybe a thousand a year, but it’s been 29 years so I figure maybe 25 thousand,” said Vella.

The teachers go beyond the textbook and chalkboard, getting involved in the lives of their young patients and their families.

“It is special, we love what we do, we really enjoy working with the families because we do end up getting really involved with the families, we see a lot of success stories,” said Lantaff

They are also there for the families when the unthinkable happens and a student doesn’t get to go home from the hospital. They’ve been to many funerals of the years to help support grieving families.

Through it all says Vella, they are passionate about their jobs.

“It’s the best teaching job in the world really, and the children have fun, you can ask them, and it doesn’t matter if you’re here for one day or a year,” she said.

Our congratulations to Anne Vella, Mary Day Lantaff and Kristen Bearden–and USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital, for a job well done.

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