As Totino-Grace teacher battles leukemia, students raise thousands for blood cancer research

The best teachers leave a lasting impression on their students and the mark of Mr. Phil Trovato has been both lessons and lots of laughter.

"I tell my kids I am one of the few teachers that got into it because I didn't like school," said Trovato. 

For more than a decade, he's taught world history at Totino-Grace High School in Fridley.

In the midst of teaching and coaching the golf team three years ago, he noticed something was off physically. 

"It just felt like I had a lump in my throat...not a sore throat, not anything that hurt, but almost like someone was putting their hand around (my) neck really lightly," said Trovato. 

He went to the doctor, where they discovered a large tumor above his heart. He was diagnosed with a form of leukemia and that's when an intense chemotherapy regimen began. At that same time his treatment was starting, students at the school were organizing something special.

The school began a partnership with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and their "Student Visionaries of the Year" program. 

The philanthropic effort took on new meaning for sophomores Cecelia Linders and Sophia Durand as their teacher was undergoing treatment.

"He's just such a big part of this community, and it's really inspiring to see him keep battling through it," said Linders. 

Over the last three years, 34 students have raised more than $275,000 for blood cancer research in his honor with both big and small gestures.

"(We can) go and bag at stores, just small things around our community too... talking to neighbors, just simple things like that," said Durand. 

Mr. Trovato's cancer is now in remission, and he's back in the classroom, but the work of his students to end blood cancers will continue on.

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