Skip to main content
Updated:
Original:

'Ellen' pays tribute to MN kindergarten teacher battling cancer

Kelly Klein continues to teach kindergarten via Zoom while at her chemotherapy treatments.

A Falcon Heights kindergarten teacher who is battling cancer for the second time got a surprise from Ellen DeGeneres when she appeared on Ellen Tuesday

Kelly Klein has taught at Falcon Heights Elementary School for more than 30 years, and even during her second battle with cancer, she continues to teach kindergarteners over Zoom while she's at the hospital for her chemotherapy treatments. 

She told DeGeneres all about it, and DeGeneres surprised her at the end of the 8-minute segment: 

Five years ago, Klein was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer, and on the five-year anniversary she found out the ovarian cancer had returned. Her oncologist gave her 10 to 15 years to live.

"It's been devastating to my family and, you know, I try to make every day that I have special," she told DeGeneres. 

Klein has continued to teach through this cancer diagnosis, telling DeGeneres the first time she was diagnosed she had to take a leave because she was "so filled with tumors and so sick." 

She called teaching the "love of her life," saying she begged her principal so she wouldn't have to take a leave this year and her district granted her the distance teaching position for kindergarten.

"I thought, I can do this," she told DeGeneres. "I go to the hospital and it's kind of a depressing place ... I just thought I want to make the most of my time while I'm there. And what better way than to spend four or five hours than with 5 year olds?"

DeGeneres asked Klein how she has the energy to teach a bunch of young kids, and Klein responded by throwing her hands in the air and saying she gets a chemotherapy high. 

"Ellen, I'm like ready to party when I'm at the hospital," she said of her chemo treatments, noting it happened to her the first time too. "So I schelp all my teacher bags, my science experiments, my math lessons, my literacy lessons, and I line them all up on this window sill ... there's no better way to pass the time in such a depressing environment than to be with kids."

When she logs on to be with her class it's the "best medicine" for her, Klein said. "I forget that I have cancer when I see those smiling faces."

Klein told DeGeneres her students know she's at the hospital because they can see the IVs and nurses in the background and they talk about how she's there to make her feel better. 

Parents and the Falcon Heights community have been supportive of her and "wrapped their arms around me," she said. "We're both doing each other a favor – the kids are helping me as much as I'm helping them." 

Klein told DeGeneres she's always loved kids and knew from the beginning that she wanted to a teacher, and be "that teacher" who makes a difference in a child's life. 

Klein said word has spread that she has cancer, and she's hearing from students she had 20-30 years ago who are telling her she was "that teacher" who made an impact on them.

"I'm finding out that I made a difference," Klein said. 

"You're a very special woman, so of course you're that teacher," DeGeneres said. After a commercial break, Degeneres said they tracked down some of her current and former students and put together a video for Klein. 

While watching the video of her students praising her and sharing the impact she made on their lives, Klein wiped away tears.

"Well that's gotta make you feel good," DeGeneres told her. "I mean, talk about making the most of your life. You are making a difference in so many people's lives, which I think is all any of us want to do while we're here."

DeGeneres then said she was helping Klein check things off her bucket list, announcing Shutterfly donated $10,000 so her family can go on a dream surfing vacation once the pandemic is over. Shutterfly also donated $10,000 toward her medical bills. 

Klein said she was speechless, adding "that never happens."

"You're a wonderful woman," DeGeneres told Klein. "Thank you for what you do."

Next Up

Chris Finch

Hawks bury Timberwolves in 3-point barrage

Without D'Angelo Russell, the Wolves couldn't keep up with the Hawks.

P.J. Fleck, Gophers football

Kirk Ciarocca returning to Gophers as offensive coordinator

The architect of the 2019 offense will look to revive the Gophers.

Klobuchar - MTP - NBC screengrab

Klobuchar says Congress should pass law to protect abortion rights

Her comments came as the Supreme Court appears poised to weaken — or gut — Roe v. Wade

MPD missing Heard - crop 1_

Police ask for public's help finding Mpls. woman missing a week

The 36-year-old hasn't been seen or heard from recently.

unsplash cold winter breath dark

Hello, winter: List of the coldest wind chills in MN Monday morning

The state went from a relatively mild start of the season, to downright frigid wind chills.

deer

1 CWD-positive deer in Brainerd Lakes area, so surveillance will continue

The CWD monitoring measures were supposed to end after this year.

unsplash - visitor patient doctor hospital emergency - crop

MN program will train, hire 1,000 nursing assistants for long-term care

The facilities are facing a severe staffing shortage.

Minnesota State Fair - main gate day 2021

Minnesota State Fair reestablishes a police department

The fair had been contracting with the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office.

teacher, covid, masks, school

Minnetonka to consider removing middle school mask requirement

The school board has been impressed by vaccination rates among middle school students.

snow, plow

Friday winter storm could hit Twin Cities, southern Minnesota

Meteorologist Sven Sundgaard is already monitoring the forecast.

Sauk Rapids Middle School street view, Minnesota - November 2018_

Teen student arrested for threats toward MN middle school

The Sauk Rapids middle school and high school were closed Monday.

_DSC0318

Rally for trans child outed during Hastings school board race draws big crowd

Hastings has been in the spotlight since the child's family was featured in a CNN story.

Related

Zachary McKeever

Edina teachers raising money to help colleague's son, who is battling cancer

After being cancer-free for two years, he's battling cancer for the second time.

Ellen calls MN mom and son to the stage to tell inspiring story

The mother and son from Big Lake were part of the show that aired Monday.

Michelle Young

Teacher from Edina steals Matt James' heart on 'The Bachelor'

She's also a former high school and college basketball star.