The 2020-21 school year was a trying one for students and teachers alike. For one Opelousas teacher, the trials and tribulations of teaching during the pandemic were compounded by her battle with breast cancer.

Despite it all, she never missed a single class.

How?

By drawing inspiration from her colleagues and her students--past and present.

”You have to keep in mind that you have to keep going no matter what the fight," Amy Carrier said. "You just have to keep going. Those babies rely on me, and it’s kind of what kept me going, too.

"We all have a fight in life. We all have to fight and believe in something. I’ve seen so many kids who were maybe sick or just had some sort of other battle they were fighting in life, and they kept going, and I always tried to encourage them. I tried to take that in my heart and do the same thing.”

Amy Carrier has been fighting her own personal battle all school year. The 26-year teaching veteran has been fighting cancer.

What’s more: She’s been receiving her treatment during school days on her planning periods.

“My doctors said it was okay," Carrier said. "If I could do it and I was able to do it and I had enough energy that it was okay with them. They were pretty amazed, but I needed to come back to work. I needed to keep moving.”

“She would leave school, get her treatment, and come back before her next class," Principal Ulysse Joubert said. "She was concerned about being caught in traffic or something and having a delay—which never happened, by the way.”

Joubert says Carrier never allowed her situation to affect her daily life. That, he says, inspired him and the rest of the faculty. It’s a message echoed by assistant principals Michael Veazie and Stephanie Senegal.

“Ms. Carrier is amazing," Veazie said. "When I say 'amazing,' I truly mean it. To go through such a life-altering event, to go through something so serious with this much grace proves what kind of person she is. She’s extremely graceful. She’s extremely graceful. She’s one of the best teachers I’ve ever taught with. Ms. Carrier has been the anchor of Park Vista since I’ve been here.”

“She got here early in the morning to do the planning work she missed at 10:00," Senegal said. "She got here at 6:00 (or) 6:30 in the morning. So that hour she missed during treatment, she made up before work and in the afternoon. That’s why is said ‘resilient.’”

Carrier says her inspiration to keep going came from one of her former students.

“The sixth-grader who’s inspired me the most, especially with the fight I’ve been going through is Miya Norse, who was a student several years ago. She fought bone cancer, and she fought it with a smile. I look up to her with my fight very much.”

Miya Norse (l) with Amy Carrier (Courtesy: Amy Carrier)

Miya Norse attended Park Vista. She died in 2013 of osteosarcoma at the age of 15. Miya was not only one of Carrier’s students, she was her friend’s daughter. Miya was also a good friend of Carrier’s daughter.

“I think about her all the time," Carrier said of Miya. "She was an inspiration. She always had a smile on her face. Her fight was her fight, and she didn’t put it on anybody else. She always fought with a smile. She is a true inspiration.”

Every year, the Park Vista faculty gives a member of the school community an award named for Miya. That award goes to someone who shows courage and perseveres through adversity.

“The Miya Norse Award says, ‘Miya’s smile was our comfort. Her friendship, our blessing. Her genuine spirit, an inspiration to all of us," Joubert told the assembly during the schools fourth-grade graduation ceremony on Thursday. "Park Vista Elementary proudly presents the Miya Norse Award to Ms. Amy Carrier.”

That surprise announcement drew a standing ovation from the crowd and made Carrier cry.

Through her tears, Carrier thanked her fellow teachers, the students, and the parents for their thoughts, prayers, and love.

“A person is only as strong as the people who hold them up," a sobbing Carrier said. "I love you."

Courtesy: Park Vista Elementary School/Facebook

Carrier's colleagues did everything they could to hold her up--from volunteering to cover her classes in the event she was late coming back from treatment and walking with her in the morning before school to sending her inspirational texts and offering their prayers. Carrier says they carried her through her battle.

As for her health, Carrier is now cancer free.

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