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At Lurie Children’s hospital, teaching is part of the healing process

Quinn Lisak, 13, talks to Pat Ebervein about what he's studying at Lurie Children's Hospital on Sept. 10, 2018. | Eliza Davidson/Sun-Times

For longtime educator Pat Ebervein, teaching is about more than advancing her students academically.

As school services coordinator at Lurie Children’s Hospital, she’s come to see her interactions with students as “a little piece of the healing process.”

Children from kindergarten up to high school seniors have access to the school services, which strives not only to keep the kids up to date with their peers in school, but to check in on how they’re doing mentally and emotionally, and provide support.

“Our jobs bring us such a sense of accomplishment, it brings us joy,” Ebervein said, choking up. “There can be sorrow mixed with that at times, of course, but there is such a feeling of being able to do something for someone, to do it hopefully in a very compassionate manner.”

Video by Eliza Davidson

When Ebervein first came to the hospital 20 years ago, it was just as a volunteer. She was a Chicago Public Schools teacher and said leaving her school “was the furthest thing from my mind.”

But over the course of her leadership with the program, she’s supervised its expansion. It serves children from not just in Chicago but the suburbs, out-of-state and even from outside the country.

Her daily routine is busy, she said. Accommodating the medical schedule of the students, the team of teachers, interns and volunteers spend about an hour with the child each day.

She has always tried to match the students with the most well-equipped teacher available, such as researchers with sharp math and science skills who can help high-school aged students with precalculus.

Ebervein retired two weeks ago, but she still gets emotional when thinking about the necessary work done at the hospital to meet the needs of kids and their families.

“It’s not always about homework, it’s about keeping kids engaged, about distraction,” she said.

She’s maintained relationships with some chronically ill patients throughout the entirety of their education.

Quinn Lisak, 13, and Pat Ebervein. | Eliza Davidson/Sun-Times
Quinn Lisak, 13, and Pat Ebervein. | Eliza Davidson/Sun-Times

Quinn Lisak, a 13-year old White Sox fan, has had a long stay at Lurie.

He was diagnosed with leukemia about a year ago, and after months of chemotherapy he was struck with an alarming infection that almost took his life. The teen can sometimes feel “down and depressed” when he’s alone at the hospital, but his grandpa often keeps him company, and he gets to connect to his friends through playing Madden.

Through school services, Lisak is able to continue his regular schooling. He’s currently in 8th grade and learning the safety procedures and vocabulary for science lab experiments, though his favorite subject is social studies.

He especially misses playing baseball and keeps a blanket with his team’s “Hawks” logo on it. He hopes to get through the long process of physical therapy, “after I’m done with that I can go back to baseball.”

And he’ll be caught up to go back to school, thanks to Ebervein and the program.