‘She made me feel like a real person’: Teacher brings school to kids stuck in the hospital

CHICAGO — School can easily fall to the wayside when kids with chronic ailments spend days and sometimes weeks in the hospital, but for the last 20 years, one special teacher refused to let young patients miss out on their education.

For many Lurie Children's Hospital patients, their hospital room was often their school and Pat Ebervein was their teacher. She was there even if it meant teaching from their bedside. Her students ranged from preschool through college, and spanned dozens of hospital floors.

Her healing touch came with a simple book bag and a determination to see every one of these kids succeed.

"We don't like kids to be ill. We don't like kids to have to spend days or weeks or months in the hospital, but there's a lot of joy in those relationships and providing them with something they really needed," Ebervein said. "There are kids I've known from kindergarten up through high school."

By all counts, Ebervein was a standout elementary school teacher for CPS, but she couldn't shake the feeling that her real work lie further than a traditional classroom. Over her two decades at Lurie, she not only taught hundreds of kids there, but also developed a comprehensive school services program that serves as a model for hospitals around the country today.

Former student Bridget Evans doesn't remember how old she was when she first med Pat, but she says she'll never forget her impact.

"She made me feel like a real person. It was tough to stay up to date with all the academics, and Pat not only made sure I did that but she made it fun. She made it engaging and and made me believe in my dreams even when things seemed impossible," Evans said.

Ebervein retired last week, and will be honored next week by Lurie Children's Service Board for her work.