New Life Academy's 'Frau' loses cancer battle
New Life Academy is in mourning.
One of its most beloved teachers, Cheri Thomas, died last week after a long bout with cancer.
"It has a pretty big impact," NLA secondary principal Lynn Atkinson said. "Cheri just really brought her uniqueness here. It is a pretty big hole. It is a loss.
"It's definitely changed around here a little bit."
Known by her students as "Frau" - the German word for "Mrs." - Thomas was the school's German teacher for 11 years.
Atkinson began at the school in 2000, the same year Thomas started teaching there. He said Thomas, 61, was a "phenomenal" teacher with a "larger than life personality in the classroom."
"Her students basically loved her," Atkinson said. "She was really able to connect with kids."
Thomas, who leaves behind a husband, children and grandchildren, taught at NLA up until spring 2011, when health issues sidelined her. New Life students rallied behind the teacher in February during a "Fight for Frau" fundraising event held during an Eagles' home game.
After the February event, Thomas told the Bulletin she was going to continue her fight, but was ready to face whatever came to be.
"Nobody knows the mind of God, but God himself," she said in February. "I accept whatever his plans are. I'm all for fighting, but you're not going to go and smash your head against a door -- that would be really dumb. You do what you think God is leading you toward doing. You have to do what is in his will."
Thomas, of Inver Grove Heights, received chemotherapy treatment in Illinois and at Woodwinds Health Campus in Woodbury.
She died Tuesday, Sept. 13. Atkinson said she was surrounded by her family.
He said he'll miss Thomas' ability to "brighten a room."
"She was the person in the coffee shop that you would end up having a conversation with," he said.
The entire New Life student body was informed of her death during a brief address. Atkinson said grief counselors were made available to students.
Meanwhile, Thomas' Facebook page was flooded with response from current and former students.
"We've really had an opportunity to be sad, but also to rejoice," Atkinson said.
Funeral services will be 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24, at Woodbury Church of Christ.