Our Schools

Cancer Survivor Rallies Behind Diagnosed Staff Member

At the age of 28, Tracy Johnson received a call that changed the way she views life. 

The doctor called her at the school in which she taught to tell her that she had colon cancer. Her principal at the time was Donna Shepard, a Mansfield ISD school namesake who was also battling cancer. 

“She grabbed me and hugged me and said, ‘I am here. I will be with you. You’re strong. You will be fine,’” recalled Johnson, who is now principal of J.L. Boren Elementary School. “To this day, that has meant so much to me.” 

Johnson said that since she has been principal of Boren Elementary, a few of her staff members have been diagnosed with cancer. She said she feels it is her calling to rally behind them and encourage them along the way. 

“I think there was a great plan for me to be here, and I’m able to share my experience to help others,” she continued. 

Recently, the school’s music teacher, Katie Carney, was diagnosed with breast cancer. The principal said it has been amazing to see how the staff members and community have come together to support her. 

Being able to show an outpouring of love to those battling cancer is one of the reasons why Mansfield ISD’s Colors for Caring initiative is near and dear to Johnson's heart. The initiative encourages the community to wear cancer awareness colors on the first Monday of each school month. 

“People always want to be helpful in a way, and they don’t know how,” Johnson said. “This is one easy way we can stand for others and be strong. It’s nice to know that we’re all a community working together to stand for each other.” 

The Colors for Caring initiative began in 2015 after Superintendent Dr. Jim Vaszauskas was diagnosed with thymoma cancer. He was grateful for the support he received and wanted to continue to spread the love to others. 

The last Colors for Caring Day of the 2017-18 school year is on May 7. Johnson said her campus will be wearing a shirt with a pink cancer ribbon made of music notes for Carney.