Physical education teacher Carla Clayton was overcome with emotion as she stepped out of the gymnasium Wednesday afternoon where hundreds of Sorgho Elementary School students and staff members awaited her — decked out in pink clothing, holding signs of encouragement and chanting her name.
Though Clayton found herself “speechless” at the sight of those supporting her, she managed to climb into a decorated shopping cart and be pushed through the hallways, giving high-fives and hugs to her students lining the hallways.
Clayton was diagnosed with breast cancer at the beginning of the school year, and will begin her battle against the disease with a round of chemotherapy treatments starting Thursday. Clayton is expected to be away from work until early January.
After the surprise, Clayton wiped tears away as she struggled to find the words to express her emotions.
“I don’t have any words; I mean, it’s just overwhelming,” she said. “I just feel so blessed. God is so good and it’s unbelievable.”
Clayton thanked the children she’s taught over her last three years at Sorgho, and to the staff members who’ve supported her through her diagnosis.
“Keep praying for me,” she said. “It’s unreal, the love and the support here.”
Clayton worked as a special needs assistant for more than 10 years at Owensboro Public Schools before accepting a teaching job at Sorgho in 2016. Clayton was praised by DCPS for her dedication in trying to make her students as happy and healthy as possible.
“I think we have good connections with our students,” she said. “I think we really care about them. We try to make things fun and interesting, and we really do care about them around here. We want them to be happy and successful. I’m just a big kid — I think most of us are. I think the kids can relate to us and have that connection. You know, hopefully, we can get through to some of them and kind of steer them on the right path.”
Clayton said she loves her job, especially in getting to be a role model for the 460 students she teaches every day. Since being diagnosed with breast cancer, however, Clayton said things have been a little different for her, work-wise.
“I found out on the second day of school,” she said, adding that August and September have been a difficult past two months.
“I hope I’ve taught them well. They’ve got a good sub coming in, and we’ve talked about treating him well,” she said. “I hope I’ve really made a difference there. They’ll miss me a whole lot, but I want them to keep praying for me because that’s my greatest need. I hope they can keep being leaders so that when I get back, we can just jump back into things like nothing ever happened.”