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Ozarks Life: Nicole Mueller teaching by example

Parkview’s special education teacher inspires with each day she’s at school
Updated: May. 14, 2021 at 8:46 AM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Kids learn a lot at school that’s not taught in class.

At Parkview High School, students have an inspiration in a teacher they learn from day by day.

“She is a really wonderful teacher,” senior Abigail Baumgartner said.

Nicole Mueller’s actions are teaching students, faculty, and staff, of how to approach life when life has other plans.

“Growing up in the inner city of Baltimore,” Mueller said, “I learned that you accept things as they are. You can’t change things but can change yourself.”

Nicole’s “change” came 11-years ago. That’s when the special education teacher was diagnosed with Leiomyosarcoma. It’s a rare and aggressive cancer that can double in size in as little as four weeks. When it’s treated, it will come back and attack a different part of the body.

“The prognosis is not good,” Mueller admits, “but the technology has made a great improvement.”

“I’ve had seven surgeries since 2010, two (rounds of) chemo, two (rounds of) radiation. This is my lot in life - and I’ve chosen to be contented with my life.”

Nicole has been called a tenacious, courageous warrior. So where else would she teach, but at a school who’s mascot is the Viking.

“It’s been a long journey, but through the grace of God, I have made it. And Parkview High School has been a great staff,” Mueller said.

Nicole’s work ethic inspires many at Parkview, including Melissa McCandless.

“Whether it’s a big surgery, chemo, radiation,” McCandless says, “she still comes to school. She’s excited. Works evenings, weekends, work when I wouldn’t do that.”

That’s when the culinary teacher baked up an idea.

“She has no family,” McCandless said, “and I’m not married and don’t have kids.”

Melissa would be there her co-worker. Taking her to appointments and surgeries as well as grabbing medicine and groceries. And that’s not all.

“She raised money for me because I was paying almost $200 a month for my medications,” Mueller said.

That’s another lesson from our story that Nicole wants everyone to know. It’s okay, for even the most independent person, to accept help.

“We’re all struggling, we all have issues and challenges,” Mueller said. “We have strengths and weaknesses and you have to work through those. You can’t work around them, you have to live through life.

And those lessons, not found in a text book, are not lost on her students.

“She is a real hard fighter,” Baumgartner said, “and she’s determined to help any kid.”

“People call me a survivor or strong,” Mueller said, “I’m just a person who goes day by day.”

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