Cheering on ‘the school cheerleader’

Dorothy Fox Elementary School staff bring parade, joy to teacher recovering from cancer surgery

A parade of vehicles bearing the signature Dorothy Fox Elementary School "fox ears" drive through second-grade teacher Julie Savelesky's Camas neighborhood on Friday, May 13, 2022. The parade, organized by Dorothy Fox staff, was meant to cheer Savelesky, who underwent surgery for cancer in April. (Kelly Moyer/Post-Record)

A crowd of well-wishers from Dorothy Fox Elementary School gathers in front of the Camas home of Julie Savelesky, a Dorothy Fox second-grade teacher recovering from cancer surgery, on Friday, May 13, 2022.

Dorothy Fox Elementary School teacher Julie Savelesky had no idea what her Dorothy Fox peers had planned.

It was a balmy spring Friday afternoon, and Julie was sitting with her husband, David Savelesky, outside the couple’s Prune Hill home, waiting for what she believed to be an impromptu visit from a close friend.

Soon, a parade of vehicles — each one adorned with paper fox ears from the school’s stash of early COVID-19 pandemic “social distancing” celebrations — would reveal the surprise: dozens of Dorothy Fox teachers, staff and their children had shown up to show Julie how much they missed the second-grade teacher.

It had been three weeks since Julie’s breast cancer surgery and the Dorothy Fox family was feeling her absence.

A teacher in Camas since 1999, Julie was known for bringing joy and laughter to her classrooms and for championing her large circle of friends and coworkers.

“She is the school’s cheerleader,” said Dorothy Fox principal Cathy Sork. “She is always there, planning celebrations … encouraging us.”

Now, the Dorothy Fox teachers and staff members wanted to return the favor. After their fox-eared car parade, the crowd of about two dozen gathered in front of the Savelesky home, sang for Julie and told their friend how much they’d missed her.

“This was amazing,” Julie said. “It touched my heart. I’m so grateful.”

Diagnosed with breast cancer in late March, Julie decided to have her surgery “sooner rather than later” but struggled with the thought of being away from her second-graders, families and coworkers.

“When I was told I had breast cancer, it hit me: ‘I can’t do my job. I have to leave my class, leave these amazing kids,'” Julie said.

On her last day in the classroom, before her surgery in late April, Julie’s class wore the T-shirts they’d made for their teacher. Each shirt proclaimed: “In this classroom, no one fights alone.”

“I wore mine the day I went into surgery,” Julie said.

The children also made their teacher cards and the Dorothy Fox community organized a meal train to make sure Julie and David wouldn’t have to worry about preparing food during Julie’s recovery period.

Throughout the past three weeks, Dorothy Fox teachers and staff have been calling and texting Julie daily to make sure she is doing OK and has everything she needs.

On Friday, May 13, after the crowd had wished Julie farewell and dispersed to their own homes, a few of her closest work friends stuck around to catch up and tell the teacher about how things were going at the Camas elementary school.

The substitute teacher was doing a great job, they said.

Julie nodded.

She said she felt confident Room 15, the classroom she hated to leave before the end of the school year, would continue to be a place where children felt valued, a space that would remain devoted to offering “a legacy of love and learning,” Julie said.