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THE TRIALS THAT BIND

December 19, 2017


BY JAMES EVANS
Rutherford County Schools

“That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.”

Perhaps no one better embodies that famous quote from German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche than Dr. Kyle Prince and Lindsay Bouldin — a teacher and a student at Central Magnet School. 

For Lindsey, it started last summer.  

Like all rising seniors, she had plans. 

Lindsay had been accepted into the prestigious Governor’s School program for International Studies, which was held in Memphis. 

Unfortunately, Lindsay never made it. 

In May, she knew something wasn’t quite right. 

She was irritable because she didn’t feel well. She then found a lump on her abdomen. 

When she told her mom — which was a couple of weeks before the planned trip to Governor’s School — she took Lindsay to the doctor immediately. 

From there, the process went quickly. It was determined that Lindsay had cancer — a germ cell tumor on one of her ovaries — and she was referred to a specialist. 

Her initial doctor visit was on a Friday, the specialist visit was on Monday and she had surgery on Thursday. 

For teacher Kyle Prince, it happened much younger. 

Kyle says his family moved to Murfreesboro when he was two years old. 

Not long after, his parents noticed something wasn’t quite right. 

“So they brought me to the doctor — Dr. Dixon, he practiced in Murfreesboro for a long time — and I don’t know how he knew, but he said, ‘I think he has leukemia.’ So they sent my mom and me to Vanderbilt, and it was true,” Kyle said. 

He started the chemo process, and at the age of five, was deemed to be in remission. He spent the rest of his childhood going for regular screenings — first every month, then every few months — until eventually it was reduced to annual visits. 

When he turned 18, he was told there was no need to return for additional screenings. 

“That moment was pretty special, when they said, ‘Don’t come back,’” Kyle said. 

It wasn’t until recently that Kyle and Lindsay discovered they had a shared bond as cancer survivors. 

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Kyle is regarded as one of the best teachers in Tennessee. He currently serves as a member of Gov. Bill Haslam’s Teacher Cabinet and was a top three finalist for Tennessee Teacher of the Year in 2015.

As a junior, Lindsay took Kyle’s math class.

Kyle shares his cancer story with students each year as a motivator, and so Lindsay was familiar with his past battle. But that was before she had received her own diagnosis, and their connection wasn’t evident at first. 

When school started this year, Kyle noticed that Lindsay had begun wearing a bandanna on her head, but he didn’t want to approach her assumingly. 

“Sometimes it can be uncomfortable to talk about so I wasn’t sure to approach (her) at the beginning,” Kyle said. 

As a member of the governor’s Teacher Cabinet, Kyle and other members had been invited to a lunch in November and were asked to bring along a student who was interested in becoming a teacher. The lunch would include a discussion led by Gov. Haslam to gather feedback from students about education in Tennessee. 

So Kyle made a schoolwide announcement asking students to come see him if they were interested in teaching one day. 

“I didn’t want to say exactly what it was because I did not want people just to come because they wanted to meet the governor.”

Lindsay was one of four students who showed up for an interview, and Kyle then had the difficult task of choosing the best candidate.  

“They had to provide feedback at the luncheon so I wanted someone who could speak well and articulate their answers,” Kyle said. 

It was during the interview that Lindsay shared her trials of the past few months, and what had piqued her interest in finding a career, like teaching, where she could help others. 

She explained that she had taken a computer science class once and seriously considered pursuing it as a career because of the potential to make a good salary. 

Something was missing. 

“It was fun, but I wasn’t really passionate for it like I was for volunteering and helping people,” Lindsay explained. “After going through the whole cancer process and realizing that I’m only going to be able to live once, why would I do a job that yeah, I might make money in, but would I truly be happy? 

“I’ve always been surrounded by teachers,” she continued. “My stepmom is a teacher and my mom has always taught me the importance of education and learning. Since I love volunteering and helping children, I realized that teaching is a good way to bring all of what I love to do together.”

For Prince, his life had come full circle. 

“When she said that in her interview, it really connected with me because throughout my life, I’ve always thought, ‘I probably shouldn’t have survived,’ but yet I did,” Prince said. “So now I have this second lease on life that I want to give away and help others and try to make a difference in others’ lives.”

Lindsay was chosen, and in November, the pair joined 17 other teacher advisors and their student guests for lunch with Gov. Haslam and Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen. 

The luncheon was held at the Governor’s Mansion. They toured the home and admired the art, a punchbowl from the U.S.S. Tennessee and “snuck” a quick visit to the sun porch where Elvis Presley once played shuffleboard. 

They then had lunch with the governor gathered around six tables. The governor would pose a topic and then ask for discussion — sometimes for participants to have at their tables and sometimes as one large group. 

When Kyle had been a young boy of three-years-old with cancer, a non-profit had granted his wish to visit Disney World with his family. 

He viewed the lunch with the governor as a way to give Lindsay a similar distraction — even if it wasn’t Disney World. 

“It was good enough,” said Lindsay, who has an interest in politics and was excited for the chance to rub elbows with the governor. 

The experience of cancer, understandably, has not been easy for Lindsey. She hated missing Governor’s School and she hated losing her hair.

But she credits teachers like Dr. Prince with helping make the situation a little easier. 

She’s also become close to Allison Powell, another teacher who has offered a shoulder and encouragement.  

“She’s always there for me. She’s very intuitive and knows when something is wrong. She’s that person I can go to if I am ever feeling down or if there’s something wrong. She’s always there for me and she’s very comforting. I know she does that with other students too. She’s just that person who is there for students.” 

Teachers can be a constant in a person’s life, Lindsay said. They can be that person to be there for them, give them advice and push them in the direction that students might not otherwise see, she explained. 

“Ms. Powell is that kind of person for me. Even when I’m down, she always sees the best in me and she always sees my potential and she always pushes me that way,” Lindsay added.  

Being surrounded by loving teachers has made a huge impact on Lindsay and on how she wants to spend her future.  

“She wants to be that person for others,” Kyle said.

Lindsay will graduate from Central Magnet in May and has applied to universities across the country, including her “dream” choices such as Harvard, Boston University and Stanford. She lives in Smyrna with her family but wants to branch out for college, she said. 

Regardless of where she ends up, she plans to take a piece of her home state with her, in the form of a Tennessee tri-star necklace she received a few weeks ago from her stepmom. 

“I plan to take it with me wherever I go to college,” Lindsay said. “Tennessee is my home, and I don’t want to forget that because I do love this state.”

Lindsay doesn’t consider her story to be one of near tragedy or loss.

Much like the Nietzsche quote, her attitude is one of hope and promise. 

“Not everyone is as lucky as I am,” Lindsay said, amazingly. “Compared to other people I’m really lucky. I may have gotten cancer, but I survived. I’m going to a great school, I have great friends and I have great teachers. Not everyone has that.”

She added: “I am a better person and I am stronger. My life is more direct now. I’m not really ashamed of it. I am a better person because of it.”