When 8-year-old Carter McDaris realized his third grade teacher was in a battle for her life, at first, he was surprised.
“I didn’t even know she was sick until my mom told me. I didn’t know because she acts happy and never complains,” the Denham Oaks Elementary student said.
The moment he found out just how sick Ms. Stacy Nussbaum is, and how much she struggles despite showing up to teach with a smile every day, Carter emptied his piggy bank and donated $72 to a fund to help his teacher get the kidney transplant she needs. His little brother, Cayden, soon did the same.
“Her kidney wasn’t working so I gave her my money, because she needs to pay her bills,” Carter said. “I gave her money to make her happy, I was sad for her.”
Then, Carter set out to help raise even more money for the woman he says is amazing for so many reasons.
Diagnosed with kidney diseases as a teenager, and now in Stage 5 renal failure, Nussbaum’s brother-in-law is a matched donor for the transplant, but she is fighting an infection that has delayed the procedure, Carter’s mom Tiffany Hines of Lutz said.
Even as her health deteriorates, Nussbaum continues to make her students a priority, fighting back against nausea, fatigue and headaches to teach no matter how she is feeling, because it’s her passion, Hines said.
“She shows eagerness to teach the children every single day despite her illness,” Hines said.
It’s that passion that makes Carter want to help his teacher, a woman who has made a tremendous impact on his young life. It’s her passion, and her commitment in the classroom, that kept Carter and his classmates from realizing the severity of Nussbaum’s illness until recently.
“She makes everybody laugh by acting silly. She acts goofy so that the kids can remember reading tricks and test taking strategies,” Carter said. “One time, she brought in baby shoes and tried to put them on. It was on the tip of her foot because it didn’t fit. She pulled the shoe as hard as she could. All the kids were laughing. She did that to teach us how to pick a ‘good-fit book,’ a book on your level. She says, ‘You have to read a good fit book so you can grow as a reader, just like as your shoes grow or you will get blisters’.”
Her enthusiasm follows Carter home every day. Nussbaum is often cited at the dinner table, his mom said.
“Ms. Nussbaum is special to our family because of the impact she has had on Carter. It is so exciting to witness your child coming home from school excited about what he has learned, and Ms. Nussbaum makes learning exciting,” Hines said.
Those students she inspires daily are rallying around her now, small soliders in a battle for their teacher's health and happiness.
“The children help Ms. Nussbaum through the day, they give her the push she needs to get through,” Hines said. “Ms. Nussbaum continues to take life one day at a time, it is all she can do at this time.”
A fund was set up by Nussbaum’s sister, Julie Marsh, and Denham Oaks Elementary assistant principal Wendy Carswell to raise money for her, Hines said. Carter created a video and is working to help raise as much as possible for his special teacher, Hines said.
The money will help cover Nussbaum’s extensive medical expenses, anti-rejection medications, and living expenses, Hines said. Once she is able to have the transplant, Nussbaum could be out of work for up to six weeks, and because of her illness, she already has used all of her sick time.
Carter wants everyone to know about the teacher who adores him as much as he does her.
“Ms. Nussbaum loves me so much she always says she wants me to be her kid. I want everyone to help her with her fund so that she isn’t sad. I want her to get her transplant so she won’t be sick anymore,” Carter said.
“She is truly an inspiration to never give up,” Hines said. “That sets a great role model for the children she influences every day. “
Want to help Ms. Nussbaum? You can make a donation at www.giveforward.com/teamkidneybean. You also can help by “spreading the word about this amazing teacher,” Hines said.