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Students give popular teacher battling cancer a 'bucket list'

When students found out their teacher was battling cancer for the third and likely final time, they helped create a bucket list for her to carry out by the end of the school year.

Dorrie Coleman has served Puyallup High School for 20 years, teaching classes from art, ceramics, drawing, and graphic design. A number of years ago she battled her first round of Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. She went into remission, relapsed and successfully beat it again.

However, some recent health news changed the tone of her next battle.

Coleman learned a large tumor had developed near her heart. The mass is inoperable, unresponsive to treatment and is steadily growing.

""The Puyallup High School leadership class heard this news and immediately recognized that the feelings of helplessness can often be combated with action," said Jamie Mooring, a fellow teacher. Mooring and a group of students started scheming to create a bucket list for Coleman.

They hatched a plan to trick Coleman into creating a bucket list. Mooring made up a fake assignment and put slips of paper in the other teachers' mailboxes, knowing Coleman would be glad to oblige students. In the end, she unknowingly created her own bucket list full of small and big wishes, ranging from flying in a glider to meeting George Lucas.

At a morning staff meeting, notoriously known for announcing administration or personnel changes, students and staff presented Coleman with her surprise bucket list. Students have been able to secure several wishes, including visiting NASA, staying at a house on the beach, fighting a light saber battle, and flying on a glider.

"I haven't been on a commercial airplane in 15 years," Coleman laughed.

Coleman also is a huge Star Wars fan. Her car is decked out in Darth Vader gear and so is her classroom. "I'm very excited to represent the Dark Side in a light saber battle, like I'm shaking inside because of it," said Coleman.

Mooring says some of the harder bucket list items are finding a way to get Coleman to the Grand Canyon, getting free Hamilton tickets, or finding a monkeyshine geocaching. The ultimate would be for Coleman to meet George Lucas.

"Her reaction was perfect," said Mooring. "It was exactly what I thought it would be--disbelief, shock. She was clearly speechless, and it's exactly what it's supposed to be."

"I've always known I belonged to an amazing community," said Coleman. "The fact that I know they came together to do this for me, it doesn't surprise me. It just makes my heart swell up even more."

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