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Teachers: Isyss changed our lives

Brain tumor claims life of 10-year-old

Isyss Couch, the Andalusia Elementary School student who inspired Team Isyss after being diagnosed with a brain tumor last year, died Tuesday. She was 10.

Her former teachers agreed that having her as a student changed them.

Jessica Tucker said, “To see such strength and determination from such a young child will forever impact my life. She came to school on days when she didn’t feel like it. She asked for her classwork even after being sent home with hospice. She fought back the tears while being pushed into my classroom in a wheel chair just to have another chance to come to school and see her classmates and make homemade butter with us.

“If only we could all approach life as she did,” Tucker said. “ She loved to learn, loved her classmates, and loved the Lord with all her heart. She will forever be a part of us all.”

Isyss was a fourth grader when she was diagnosed last January, after noticing an abnormal weakness on the left side of her body while playing basketball.

She and her mom, Jamila Couch, spent many weeks at Children’s Hospital. But her classmates rallied behind her and formed Team Isyss, working on several projects to raise more than $7,000 for the family. The students skyped with her regularly, and mailed her cards, letters and gifts.

Her fourth grade teachers, Heather Bailey and Susan Bentley Chandler, had 19 years of teaching experience between them when Isyss received her diagnosis, but they’d never taught a seriously ill child. Together, they decided to talk about what was happening with Isyss with their students.

“We decided this is life, and they needed to learn about compassion,” the women said in an interview last year.

“I am forever grateful to have had the opportunity to have Isyss in my class,” Bailey, who now teaches in Dothan, said. “She was diagnosed with DIPG in January and since then, my outlook on teaching has changed. Driven by love and dedication, I saw students go above and beyond for each other. That’s powerful. Team Isyss and its endeavors is a testimony to that.

“I’m thankful for each and every day that I am in the classroom, even on the hard days,” Bailey said. “Having Isyss placed in my life really shed light on ‘why’ I do what I do. Her smile and strength are two things I hold close to my heart.

Chandler said, “Isyss demonstrated bravery and courage through this difficult journey and has touched the lives of many.

“I could always count on Isyss to brighten my day,” she said. “She always had a smile on her face. Isyss loved helping others, and had a huge heart. Isyss taught compassion to friends, classmates, and the community. I am truly blessed to have had Isyss in my life. She has made me a better person, and will always have a special place in my heart.”

Isyss also had been identified as one of three children to benefit from Cancer Freeze 2018, set for February. Funeral arrangements have not been announced.