Alston Middle hosts fundraiser for teachers fighting cancer

Alston Middle School eighth grade science teacher Peter Collins.

Megan Linton didn’t think anything of the spot on her arm. She put creams on it and tried other products to get rid of it, but it did not go away.

A year later, after finally going to the doctor for a biopsy, she was told she had melanoma, an aggressive skin cancer.

But Linton, a previous Teacher of the Year and eighth-grade math teacher at Alston Middle School in Summerville, is not going through this process alone. Her parents, Diane and Denny Linton, have been by her side.

Peter Collins, an eighth-grade science teacher at Alston, lacrosse coach and Rookie Teacher of the Year, has Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was diagnosed in 2011, and with chemotherapy, radiation and a stem cell transplant, his cancer went into remission. But the cancer recently returned.

From 4:30-6:15 p.m. May 23, Alston, the Summerville Atlanta Bread Co. and Italian Ice are hosting a spaghetti dinner fundraiser at Ashley Ridge High School to help offset treatment costs.

“The school has had my back the whole time. They hired me knowing I had cancer and worked with me through it the first time,” Collins said.

His wife, also named Megan, has been one of his biggest supporters, too. She is a nurse at Roper Hospital.

Principal Thad Schmenk said the faculty and staff are like family, and it was their idea to host the fundrasier for Linton and Collins.

“These are two of the most outstanding teachers I have ever met,” Schmenk said. “The kids know they’re loved by them.”

“These are phenomenal educators. They were born to teach,” said Assistant Principal Robert King.

Linton and Collins said they continue to teach while fighting cancer because of their students.

“I just love it here. We’re like a family. ... I’d rather be here than at home,” Linton said.

“I honestly love my job. The kids make it worthwhile. It was hard enough telling them last time. This year telling them was a little bit harder,” Collins said.

Last week, Collins was in New York to see a specialist and get treatment. He returned to teach this week. Both teachers have been waiting until the summer, when school is out, to undergo more treatment.

Eighth-graders Josh Church and Daquan Walker have both teachers this year. They said Linton and Collins are enthusiastic and make learning fun.

“They treat us like one of them. They’re like friends. We know that they are people we can talk to,” Daquan said.

Josh said helping these two teachers doesn’t just help them, it helps the students.

School nurse Natalie Hilton has taken on the role of informing students, parents and teachers of Linton and Collins’ progress. She said it’s important to keep students informed.

“It means something to them, not hiding it. They become more invested,” Hilton said.

They have turned Linton’s diagnosis into a learning experience. Last week, the school honored Melanoma Awareness Month, and Hilton and Linton always advise students to wear sunscreen.

“I can’t believe that with all they go through, they’re still worried about me,” Linton said through tears about her students.

Linton said Collins has become one of her best friends through this process. They are both in their 20s, College of Charleston graduates and natives of the Summerville area.

“He teaches right next door to me. We understand what others can’t. We remind each other not to look at the statistics. We remind each other not to worry,” she said.

Reach Jade McDuffie at 937-5560 or