John Heideman, who serves as music director at Grace Community Church, Seal Beach, Calif. (Steve Williams, pastor), was featured last week in the Daily Breeze after students at Mira Costa High School, where he teaches, held a rally in his support. Heideman, who is battling cancer, will be retiring after 39 years at the school. A portion of the story appears below. Click here for the complete article.
Mira Costa students rally around retiring English teacher with prostate cancer
John Heideman walked outside his English classroom at Mira Costa High School and clutched his hand to his chest.
The happy-go-lucky teacher, known as the campus jokester who is always up for elicting a laugh, was, for a moment, speechless.
He was greeted at lunchtime Thursday by a roar of applause from hundreds of students, along with current and former faculty, standing in front of him. The crowd gathered to show its support of the 39-year teacher, who is battling stage 4 prostate cancer. He will retire at the end of the school year.
Heideman ran through a victory tunnel, the students holding their hands up high on either side, all wearing T-shirts that read, “Keep Calm and Fight On” with his name on the back.
“It floored me. I was crying away,” Heideman said. “I was totally surprised. What they did was just sheer compassion, understanding, love. I think they would have done it for hundreds of other people. It just happened to be me.”
Heideman has made quite an impact on the Manhattan Beach high school in his four decades on campus in various roles, including choir director, technology coordinator, art production teacher, band leader and English teacher. His senior seminar classes, “Humor in Literature” and “Death and Dying in Literature,” are extremely popular. His teaching style, his unrelenting energy in the classroom, his optimism are remarkable, students said.
More impressive is that his character hasn’t changed despite a harrowing medical journey over the past few years.
“He just shows such a positive attitude. He’s always optimistic,” said senior Dillon Patel, who organized Thursday’s event. “He’s just a really good teacher. He’s always happy.”
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