One longtime Tomball Junior High teacher battling a rare tumor is getting ready to take her dream trip this summer. It’s all thanks to some of her students, who helped raised thousands of dollars to make it happen.
Michelle Wistrand was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in late 2015. Doctors couldn’t remove the tumor in her back and chemo had stopped working. Once the cancer spread to Wistrand’s lungs, doctors gave her about two years to live.
In February, Mrs. Wistrand told her 8th graders at Tomball Junior High not only about her diagnosis, but about her bucket list, including her lifelong dream of visiting California.
“My goal is to end up in the redwoods and hug a tree,” said Wistrand. “That’s what I want to do. I want to stand below a redwood and just think about how amazing things are. It just kind of puts it all in perspective: how little we are in comparison to the great works that God has created.”
When four of her 8th grade students, Mickey Nolen, Alana Lee, Amanda Skivington and Colton Richard, heard their teacher talk about her dream, they made it their mission to make it happen.
“We were talking about it in class and brainstorming ideas and we were like, ‘The California thing, we can do that,” said Lee.
“(Nolen) was like, ‘Alright, let’s take a risk and go with 75 (hundred dollars),’ and I was like ‘Uh, let’s keep it small,’” recalls Skivington. “He was like ‘No, I’m going for it’, and here we are now. It’s incredible.”
They raised more than $3,600 the first day alone and more than $11,000 in three months. Along with the GoFundMe page, donations came from a local restaurant and sales of t-shirts that say “Together We Can Wistrand Anything.”
While those four students and their parents were surprised at the community’s outpouring, perhaps the person most surprised was Mrs. Wistrand herself.
“She started crying right then and we’re like, ‘Wow, this is something greater than us,’” recalled Nolen, “It feels really good.”
“$11,000! Who does that for a teacher?” said Wistrand. “The fact that 8th grade students would look beyond themselves… these kids are awesome.”
Mrs. Wistrand will retire from teaching after Tomball ISD wraps up class in early June. She’s planning on taking the California trip in August.
She says she will be able to cross off other items on her bucket list this fall, including watching the leaves change colors in the Midwest and seeing sea turtles in Florida.