Beloved Teacher’s Illness Inspires Students to Give of Themselves, Literally

The High School for Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice was a sea of orange on Mon., Sept. 9. Orange is the color associated with leukemia, and the school went all out to support a beloved teacher in need of blood. Two Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center mobile coaches hosted some 60 students, staff, alumni, and even parents who signed up to donate blood for criminal justice teacher Donald Chasteen.

Chasteen returned to school at the end of the summer, but according to co-teacher Luevenia Lewis, he did not look good. “When it was time for lunch, and he didn’t have any appetite,” Lewis said. “I knew something was wrong.” They took him to a nearby emergency room.

Chasteen, who has taught for 10 years at the high school, was diagnosed with leukemia. He has been in the hospital for the past month, where he has undergone nearly 30 blood transfusions, along with chemotherapy. The prognosis is good, however, and if everything goes as planned, Chasteen will be cured and back to teaching.

The students were devastated and wanted to do something to help. “When I heard the news, I was here before school started helping the teachers,” said Grace Diaz. “I immediately knew we had to do something.”

Lewis asked Donald’s wife, Margarette Chasteen, what he needed. “Blood,” she said.

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Lewis, school nurse Celeste Adams, members of Mr. Chasteen’s club, the Law Enforcement Explorers, and Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) cadets got busy. “We know how to do this because we have a health fair every year where the students give blood,” said Adams.

Ten JROTC students and ten Explorers were in charge of the blood drive. Explorer Miyanna Kirksey and JROTC cadet Ana Perez kept the blood-donation process running efficiently in coach #2. There were six students in each of the two coaches at any given time: two being interviewed, two giving blood, and two recuperating with juice and snacks. Gulf Coast nurse Mike Rowe was busy, but he stopped to point out that one donation can help three people. “These kids are learning early how important it is to contribute to their community,” he said. “Now teens can donate at age 16 with parental consent.”

“All the blood donated today will be used for Donald’s transfusions,” said Mrs. Chasteen. “Any blood incompatible with his blood type will be swapped for blood he can use.” She emails the school daily to keep everyone updated on her husband’s progress.

“It was a huge blow to me,” said Lewis. “This is a small school, and we are a family. We miss him, and we are rooting for him to get well.

“It’s great to see so many former students and parents of students giving blood,” said Dean of Instruction Christinia Wehde-Roddiger. “They all love him, even if they never had him for a teacher.”