Community unites to help beloved Detroit teacher battling brain tumor

Voncile Campbell went viral for her nightly bedtime story videos

Voncile Campbell has been reading a bedtime story to her students each night online.
Voncile Campbell has been reading a bedtime story to her students each night online.

DETROIT – When the pandemic first hit in March and students in the Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) students were sent home, third grade master math teacher Voncile Campbell didn’t want her students feeling isolated.

She started reading them a bedtime story each night online. It would always begin with, “Good evening scholars and friends.”

Now, Campbell is in no shape to read. She has been battling a brain tumor, called an atypical meningioma. After two craniotomies over the last seven years, it’s spreading again, affecting her eyesight.

READ: Detroit teacher goes viral with nightly bedtime stories videos

“My vision started fading on me again and I knew something was wrong,” Campbell said.

She has just come off a 30-day course of radiation. Colleagues across the district stepped up immediately to donate their sick days only to find out they can’t. It’s a change to the contract between the district and Detroit Federation of Teachers (DFT).

“I did come to find out after going back and forth with them that if I’m not going to be out for a total of six months, then I cannot accept donated sick days from my coworkers,” she said.

Campbell used her last stored sick day on Jan. 4, which means she goes on disability which she only gets 60% of her salary. Fellow teachers started up a GoFundMe to help her financially through the gap.

Doctors are telling her the best case scenario is that she could return to work in three months but it’s depending on how well the radiation has worked.

Campbell said people she has never met stepping up to help her is humbling.

“I try to encourage people that because you have issues, you have to keep going. We draw from one another. I encourage other people, I accept that encouragement. It makes me feel loved and supported with everything I’m going through,” she said.

READ: Michigan high schools allowed to reopen today as part of revised COVID order


About the Authors:

DeJanay Booth joined WDIV as a web producer in July 2020. She previously worked as a news reporter in New Mexico before moving back to Michigan.