Wil Loesel’s first year of teaching is one he’ll never forget.
Loesel isn’t just working from home, he’s working from the hospital amid a global pandemic as he battles cancer.
And despite all these obstacles, he won’t let anything get in the way of teaching his students.
Around the same time that schools began closing down due to the coronavirus outbreak in March, the eighth-grade math teacher was diagnosed with stage IV Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
He was just six months into his new job at Albemarle Road Middle School in Charlotte, North Carolina after quitting a 15-year career in corporate America to pursue an avenue that was more “fulfilling.”
When he was diagnosed and forced to spend his days in the hospital, he committed to providing his 117 students with “stability” by teaching via Zoom.
"I could sit down and I could cry all day that I have cancer, but it doesn't change anything," he told PEOPLE exclusively. "I have a responsibility. Some of these kids have had these really terrible upbringings and I'm hoping that maybe this is a message that we all go through things, and either we let it stop us or we use it as fuel and motivation."
"People keep asking, 'How can you still teach from the hospital?' And I'm like, 'That's me,’ I spent so long building trust with these kids over the past six months and they're all freaking out now because they don't know what happens ... and imagine me just disappearing during those last six weeks. That'd be crazy,” he said.
The 42-year-old may be there for his students, but he added that they’re also there for him and give him the support and strength to continue fighting.
"Every day, they make me smile and cry because they all react differently," he told the publication. "Some of the kids who give me the hardest time in class, with behavioral issues or this and that, are one of the first ones to reach out to me and tell me that they're praying for me or they love me and they want me to get better."
Though Loesel is in a fight for his life and is unable to see his two sons due to hospital COVID restrictions, he explained that he feels lucky.
"Especially now, with COVID, so many people lost their livelihood, lost their income, lost their health care. My job is stable, I have health care, I have great medical professionals around me, and I have amazing support. ... I have so much going for me so I choose to experience it in as positive a way as possible because why not? What's the alternative?,” he said.
Loesel told the publication that he “fully expects to recover” and cannot wait to go back to the classroom.
"Hopefully it'll just be something I talk about that happened — that crazy year, my first year teaching, and there was a global pandemic, and everybody taught from home, and I had cancer, and that was crazy, [but] my second year was way better!"
Trending Coronavirus Coverage From RADIO.COM
—Disney World receives guidelines for when parks eventually reopen
—How likely is a second stimulus check?
—Families face ‘tough love’ conversations as coronavirus infects whole households
—6 creative ways to celebrate Mother’s Day while social distancing
—No stimulus check yet? 6 reasons why it may be held up
—Doctor who pushed vitamin treatment for COVID-19 charged with fraud
—Heartburn medicine being studied as possible treatment for coronavirus
—30-year-old teacher dies of coronavirus after symptoms were dismissed as panic attack