Tri-Valley students raise $10,000 in a penny war to help one of their teachers

Local News

MINNEHAHA COUNTY, S.D. (KELO) — A Tri-Valley school teacher, who’s battling stage four colon cancer, found out last week that not all lessons are taught from a textbook.

At Tri-Valley most students probably don’t know much about colon cancer, but they do know educational assistant, Heather Siemonsma.

Senior Lauren Harstad has known her since she was in kindergarten.

“She used to be the teacher that would get us ready to go to class in the morning, and I remember coming to school every day, you’re my favorite teacher I love you so much she was always just so sweet and super nice to everybody a super genuine person, I love her so much,” Harstad said.

That’s why the students came together to raise money for Siemonsma with a penny war; a competition between grade levels.

“There’s a lot more of the freshmen, so they thought they were going to just easily take care of us and win easily but we weren’t going to let that happen,” senior Michael Beyer said

At first Siemonsma wasn’t so sure.

“I don’t want to take money from kids, but they were having so much fun with it,” Siemonsma said.

The penny war turned into more of a battle of the bills, dollar bills.

“She helps people, but she needed help this time,” second grader Emily Oberg said.

Second grader Emily Oberg donated a lot.

“A 0 and a 0 and a 5, $500,” Oberg said.

No matter how you add it up, it was a lesson in helping others.

In the end, after a week and a half, the students raised more than $10,000.

“It was super, super surprising, we didn’t expect to get that much, but it was really nice for everybody to contribute and pitch in like that,” Harstad said.

“It’s overwhelming, it’s awesome that they did this,” Siemonsma said.

Siemonsma is currently in her second round of chemo treatment and says she’s feeling okay, and she’ll keep fighting.

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