There’s something about reading. It is one of the major building blocks of education. Learn to do it, and you don’t have to wait for anyone else to show you the world; you can explore it and educate yourself.
Paula Brogdon, as someone who has taught reading much of her 27 years at Merritt Island Christian, has brought the world to many students.
There’s something about cancer, too. It enters a life and takes center stage, doesn’t wait for anyone to authorize its existence or approve its ability to attack the body.
Brogdon knows that, too. Without regard for the good she does as a teacher, cancer chose to enter her body, showing up in a screening done in late April. She was given a definite diagnosis of invasive ductal carcinoma in early May.
Having lost her mom and a sister to breast cancer, Brogdon had always considered it inevitable for herself. That isn’t to say she wasn’t impacted.
“I knew that eventually a radiologist would say to me, ‘I don’t have good news,’ “ she said, “but when they really say it, it’s a life-changing moment.”
She has had surgery with no requirement for radiation or chemotherapy, though she will continue to undergo periodic tests for a time.
Of the 27 football players suited up for Wednesday practice at Merritt Island Christian last week, 15 had been taught by Brogdon. Grandson Carson, a ninth-grader, was among them.
It’s no surprise that, when Cougars coach Brian Power asked his players weeks earlier if they knew anyone they’d like to recognize during October, Breast Cancer Awareness month, a dozen or more hands went up.
There were stories across the team, but, in the end, they agreed on two names: Brogdon’s and that of Ruth Cottrell. Cottrell taught at the school from 1999 until 2012, specializing in language arts before she died from breast cancer.
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“The reason why these two were chosen is because the boys had personal knowledge of their conditions as they went through things,” he said. “A lot of us spent a lot of time praying for them.”
The team decided to dedicate its 2015 season – Power suggested a game, but the players upped the ante to the whole year – and at halftime on Oct. 5, they presented Brogdon as well as Tim and Sue Cottrell, the brother and sister-in-law of Ruth, with flowers, honoring them in front of the crowd.
Then the entire team, despite having a second half to play, lined up for one-at-a-time hugs with the honorees.
“A lot of the boys had my sister as a teacher in elementary school,” Tim Cottrell said. “To say that I was deeply moved would be an understatement, both that they remembered her fondly and that she had that much of an impression on them.”
MIC had already played a game days before, but there was no pink in the uniform that first October game night. Power said the players chose to wait to wear it for Brogdon and Cottrell on the night they would honor them.
“I almost felt like it was a family affair,” Brogdon said. “I taught so many of those kids, and if I didn’t teach them, I taught their siblings.”
Stereotypes of teenage boys and their interests may lean more toward cars, video games and smart phones than comforting others, but Power has seen something else.
“They are young, and they do love all those things, but it’s amazing what a 51-year-old coach can learn from such young kids,” he said. “They’ve been brought up to think of others first, and a lot of them think about things that way.”
Contact McCallum at 321-242-3698 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Brian_McCallum and at facebook.com/FLtoday.brianmccallum.
High school sports | floridatoday.com/sports/high-school-sports/
Thursday night’s game
St. Edward’s (2-5) at Merritt Island Christian (3-5)
Last week: The Pirates lost at Orlando Christian Prep, 48-38, while the Cougars lost at home to unbeaten Santa Fe Catholic, 48-0.
Game note: St. Edward’s loss to OCP broke a two-game winning streak. MIC also has a loss to OCP, 34-8 on Aug. 28.