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Palm Beach Gardens High School teacher returns to classroom 11 months after cancer diagnosis

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Posted at 2:39 PM, Mar 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-26 19:04:28-04

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — The Palm Beach Gardens High School teacher who battled cancer and then a heart attack taught kids for the first time since he was diagnosed last April. He could not have done it without the help from fellow Palm Beach County School District teachers.

“Mr. Goodman!” a former student said to him as he stood in front of his room No. 4308.

It’s the same hallways. The same room. But everything’s changed.

“Good to see you back,” his old student reminded him.

It’s basically the first day of school. Robert Goodman and his sophomores have never met. He’s taught at Palm Beach Gardens High School for 24 years.

“I’m not a sub, I’m the teacher you were supposed to have from the beginning of the year. You know that I’ve had a huge journey for the past 11 months,” he said, addressing his first-period class.

For the world history teacher perspective is everything.

“I’m surprised I’m here right now,” he told them

First, the colon cancer, followed by the love from his peers.

“The teachers in the district, they donated sick days to me for an entire semester so I could stay home and heal in the peace and quiet,” he told his students. He underwent extensive chemotherapy during that time.

Then the heart attack, and more sick days were needed and donated.

“I was minutes away from dying. I said goodbye to my wife,” he said.

And then there was the first lesson back in the classroom; one he’s never taught but lived.

“Whatever you do in life or wherever you go, remember we are in our lives together. It’s not just you, it’s not just me. That’s what life is. If you were just born to be alone, there would be no point,” he said.

His old students reminded him of that in between classes as several gave him a welcome back hug.

“My heart was just overwhelmed at the time. Like holding the tears back. It felt like a blessing. They love me,” he said in an interview.

There’s about 10 weeks left in the semester where Robert will be leading his history class. Cancer-wise, for him to be considered a survivor, he has to be cancer free for five years.