With summer winding down and school set to begin, Robert Goodman — a Florida high school history teacher recovering from surgery and receiving chemotherapy to treat his colon cancer — needed more sick days than he had. But he knew his fellow teachers wouldn’t let him down.
What he didn’t know was that his Facebook post asking for help to get 20 more sick days was about to go viral. His plea inspired a community of teachers not only at Palm Beach Gardens High School where he works, but across the Palm Beach district and the state of Florida to donate any time they could spare.
Teachers receive 10 days of sick leave a year, according to Goodman. In order to donate one day, a teacher must work at a school for six years and accumulate 96 sick days of their own, he says.
Goodman needed 20 more sick days to qualify for catastrophic leave, a program where employees can continue to receive their salary and benefits after exhausting their sick and annual leave. He would have purchased short term liability coverage, but he couldn’t afford it in addition to his mortgage payments.
“All teachers and staffers are living the same life really, financially,” he said.
So Goodman posted to a status to Facebook asking for sick leave donations so he could finish his rounds of chemotherapy without the added stress of working full days. He received an estimated 75 donated hours of sick leave in four-days time and a stream of support from fellow teachers, administrators, current and former students.
“It’s very humbling and it’s incredible, the outpouring of humanity,” Goodman said.
But it wasn’t just teachers who donated. Staffers, cafeteria workers, administrators and a Florida Atlantic professor rose to the occasion to support Goodman, along with many who wanted to but also didn’t have enough hours.
“It surprised me how much happened and how fast but it didn’t surprise me that teachers are giving,” Goodman said. “Teachers are not going to turn their backs on fellow teachers.”
For Dawn McKeich, a kindergarten teacher at Timber Trace elementary school in Palm Beach County, donating sick leave was paying it forward.
Three years ago McKeich’s kidneys failed due to a rare blood disorder, causing her to miss a month and a half of school. While in recovery, teachers at her school stepped up to the plate, making sure her classes were covered and that her own children were looked after. They also started a GoFundMe to help pay for the cost of a special diet McKeich had to be on.
“It’s very heartwarming to know people are there for you,” McKeich said. “You know you have friends you work with, but you really feel apart of a family when you go through something like that.”
Goodman, a “teacher by day singer songwriter by life,” is staying positive during his battle with cancer through his music and the immense support he’s received.
“Maybe this entire story is a great story to know that, given the opportunity, people really do want to help each other and love each other,” he said.