LEE COUNTY NEIGHBORS: Guntown teachers unite for childern with cancer

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

Guntown Middle School teachers Angela Doty and Tina Turnage have each turned personal trials into service for others.
Doty, a sixth- to eight-grade gifted teacher, and Turnage, a sixth-grade language arts teacher, were both heavily involved in the school’s Kids for Wish Kids program this fall.
Kids for Wish Kids works with the Make A Wish Foundation to grant a special request of a child battling cancer. By December, Guntown had raised $5,000 and sent 7-year-old Caleb Gates to Disney World.
In spite of the large number of hours the teachers poured into helping grant Caleb’s wish, each had her own vivid memories that spurred her onward.
Doty has survived a battle with breast cancer. Turnage watched her nephew, Jon Bourland, die of cancer at age 13. Before Jon’s death from Ewing’s sarcoma, he had a wish granted by the Make A Wish Foundation.
“It makes me feel good to be able to do something for someone else,” Doty said. “I’ve been so blessed and this is a small way I can bless someone else. The reason we are put on Earth is to show God’s love to others, and this is one way I can do that.”
Years after her nephew’s death, Turnage saw one of her students survive the same type of cancer. That student is now in law school, and the medical advancements that have allowed for his good health have inspired Turnage.
“I can see how much progress has been made in such a short time,” Turnage said.
Turnage has been involved with Kids for Wish Kids for three years and now serves as the school coordinator. She is responsible for coming up with ways to raise money for the program. Throughout the process, she thinks about her nephew.
“I always think of him,” Turnage said. “He was one of those type kids who would do anything for anyone. He keeps me motivated because it is a lot of work.
This was the first year Doty was actively involved with Kids for Wish Kids. Her students made dollhouses and raffled them off. All the money went to granting Caleb’s wish. She also helped organize a student talent show and asked businesses for money.
“I was on a mission,” Doty said. “I wanted to make sure we had enough money to grant his wish. I did more this year than ever before because I had cancer, and I knew what he was going through.”
It was even more meaningful since she knew Caleb and his family. She was also diagnosed with cancer about the same time he was.
“Caleb and his family were such an inspiration to me,” Doty said. “My treatment was much quicker. I went through my hardest months, and he still had a year and a half to go. As hard as what I went through, it was probably nothing compared to what he and his family and all children with leukemia go through.”
Doty was diagnosed with cancer in July 2007. She underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatment between August 2007 and March 2008, only missing a day of school during that time.
“My kids were so wonderful to me that year,” Doty said. “They kept me going. I came to school for them. I wouldn’t take it back. You find so many people who love you and care about you.”
Doty’s cancer actually brought the two teachers together. It was Turnage’s first year at Guntown and the two would pass each other in the hallway but hadn’t spoken much while Doty was undergoing her treatment.
“When I finished treatment, she wrote me the sweetest card,” Doty said. “She said she was always praying for me and she thought about me. She told me I had been an inspiration to her. I fell in love with her then, and we’ve been friends since.”
Turnage said she tries to learn from Doty.
“She is a huge inspiration to me,” Turnage said. “If there is a role model you want to be like, it is Angela. She does more out of the classroom than she does in the classroom and she does so much in the classroom.”
Doty is teaching for the 23rd year, having also taught at Hatley, Pine Grove and Saltillo Elementary. She is married to Roman Doty and has two daughters, Brittany, 24, and Demi, 9.
Doty said she was inspired to become a teacher by her aunt, who was also an educator.
“I remember, my first day of teaching, I said that I couldn’t believe they were paying me to do this,” Doty said. “I enjoy teaching gifted because the students in my classroom can take a responsibility for their learning. I’m just here to guide them. I get to do creative fun projects to stimulate their brain and make them think outside the box.”
Turnage is in her 16th year as a teacher after working at a bank. She has previously taught at Grenada and at Saltillo Elementary.
Turnage is married to Neil Turnage and has two sons John Neil, 18, and Justin, 13.
She is motivated as a teacher by a similar passion to help others.
“I was not a good student, and I thought I couldn’t go to college,” Turnage said. “My husband sent me back to school later in life. I see these kids who don’t have the hope of going to college but they can do it. If I could do it, they can do it.”

Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or at chris.kieffer@djournal.com