Cheri Campbell coped with the loss of her mother and a diagnosis of cancer as she earned her master’s degree. (BYU Photo)
It’s a text message you never want to have to read: "Your mother is dying—come to the hospital now."
You especially don’t want to have to read that message while sitting in class.
That morning in September 2014 started out like any other morning for Cheri Campbell. A 2015 BYU McKay School of Education graduate student, Cheri had gone to her instructional leadership class. Her phone was put away in her backpack. She took her seat in the 14-student class. The class began with a prayer and the lecture followed.
“I felt this weird urge to get my phone out of my backpack, and, sure enough, I was losing my mom at that very moment,” Campbell said. “I raced out of the room with a sob in my chest that I still feel at the very thought of it.”
Although Campbell was not able to make it to the hospital before her mother died, often during her grief she was comforted by the very classmates and professors she was in class with the day her mother died.
“I will never forget how my professors and the students in my cohort expressed their sincere concern and love for me,” Campbell said. “I have no doubt they were led by the Spirit and knew what to say, when to call, and when to send an email of concern. They reached out to ‘the one’ and that happened to be me when I needed it most.”
Campbell came to BYU for grad school after teaching American Sign Language for 17 years. Although she loved teaching ASL, several years ago she decided that she wanted to do more and began researching how to become a principal. Campbell decided to apply for the McKay School of Education’s Leadership Preparation Program (LPP), a graduate program that prepares teachers for opportunities in school administration.
“I went to the Aspiring Principals Academy at BYU, and I just fell in love with the program and the things it had to offer,” Campbell said.
Aspiring Principals Academy is a program the McKay School offers to help individuals looking into careers in education administration to learn more about what it takes to become a school principal. In addition to the friends she has made, Campbell has learned much more than she anticipated from the education she has received in the program.
“I came in expecting to get an education about becoming an administrator, but in addition I feel like I have learned how to be a better person,” Campbell said. “I feel I have much more confidence in myself.”
Campbell is also grateful for the way the program has spiritually uplifted her.
“I love how all of the professors apply the gospel to our subject matter,” Campbell said. “I loved being here because they teach that it’s okay as an administrator to close your door, get on your knees, and make sure you’re making the right decision.”
Even with that extra help, the program was challenging, and more personal issues stood between Campbell and her degree. A few months after her mother died, Campbell was diagnosed with cancer, which required her to undergo major surgery. Despite the difficult surgery and recovery, Campbell looks back on the experience of getting a master’s degree as a blessing. And she’s also pretty grateful to be cancer free.
“I am so grateful that I was [at BYU], instead of trying to do it on my own,” she said. “I have been blessed by my Heavenly Father, who has helped me realize I truly can do hard things.”
Now Campbell is ready to walk across that stage and get her diploma.
“I know accomplishing this master’s degree at this incredible university under the direction of amazing professors is truly a cause for me to rejoice,” she said.
Campbell has been offered a position as the dean of students at Mt. Nebo Junior High School in Payson. She is excited for the new opportunity and feels she has found exactly where she’s supposed to be.
“Without question, the hand of God was in this whole thing,” Campbell said.
Contact: Cynthia Glad (801) 422-1922