CHARLOTTE — Everything Wil Loesel does is for his students online, from making their day exciting with filters to prerecording lectures for kids to watch when they need extra help.
The Albemarle Road Middle School teacher may have the passion of a teacher with thousands of years of experience under their belt, but he is only in his second year of teaching.
Right as he started to hit his stride in his first year, the world started to change -- and so did his life.
“The pandemic starts. School closes down March 16 and the next Sunday, I go to the ER,” he said. “I got a test, and they immediately sent me down into the cancer ward.”
A sore throat and a lump turned out to be Stage 4 Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
His focus wasn’t on the changes in his life, even as he stared down something as life-changing as cancer.
“It takes a long time to build trust with students and I felt like I had that trust,” he said. “We were forming a bond and they trusted me, and I felt like it would be abandoning them if I stopped teaching for any reason.”
So he kept teaching using his tablet, phone and laptop to instruct from the hospital. The nurses even scheduled visits around his class schedule.
“I didn’t think anything of it,” he said. “I think a lot of teachers would have done something similar in that situation.”
His doctors didn’t think he would be able to keep teaching while in chemotherapy. He said that was the only thing they got wrong. After several months of treatment, he had his final round the day before this new school year started, and he’s now cancer-free.
“It helped me, I think, get through a lot of the chemo,” he said. “It gave me a purpose. Something to think about other than having cancer.”
On Sunday, he’ll share his story with millions.
During the Oscars, he will be featured in a Verizon commercial talking about his journey and how he used Verizon to connect with his students.
“I’ve had a lot of experiences in my life. It is tough to make me awestruck,” he said. “This made me awestruck.”
Awestruck is how people feel when they encounter Loesel. His passion is radiant and his courage is contagious.
“I just kept thinking last year, if the chemo doesn’t work and it is my time, I am very proud that I became a teacher,” he said.