Hopewell High students surprise teacher fighting incurable cancer

A number of Hopewell High School students teamed up with FOX 46 to surprise their favorite teacher who is battling an incurable form of cancer.

Patrick Maholland, a senior English teacher at Hopewell, was recently diagnosed with mesothelioma -- an "aggressive cancer" with no cure.

Maholland is now receiving treatment, indefinitely, in his hometown of Philadelphia.

FOX 46 traveled to visit the teacher and told him we were naming him one of our "Teacher's Getting Results 2019." What he didn't know is that we already interviewed his students and put together their interviews to show him how much they miss him, care about him and are thankful for everything he's taught them.

"It's like walking into a second home," student Tigris McCauley said about Maholland's classroom in the interview we showed him. "Thank you for being such a good teacher. Thank you for building my confidence as a student and as a person."

"The books we read," student Seth Moore said. "You can tell he handpicked them. He knew, you know, these books are really going to help [us] for the exam."

"You read the book because you wanted to and because it was interesting and because he made it interesting," student Aidan Farmer said.

"If you have Mr. Maholland senior year, you know you're going to have the best year," student Kalei Small said.

"He really thinks of them (the students) as, like, family," student Paley Schmitz said. 

Students appreciate Maholland's passion for literature. It's even become a point of humor.

One student remembered Maholland telling the class how he reads 'The Catcher in the Rye' each year around Christmas.

"And we're just like, oh my gosh, you are such a nerd but we love it," student Kayla Gilligan laughed.

Another student joked about Maholland's aloe vera plant, which he named after one of Shakespeare's pieces of work.

"Like he named his aloe plant, 'Othaloe,' like, from Othello," student Hallie Sly said.

All of the students who interviewed with FOX 46 agree -- there's no teacher like Maholland.

"Maholland was like that one friend that always bugged you to do your work," Moore said.

Maholland said he will travel back to Charlotte for Hopewell's graduation on June 8.

"I've been very fortunate to be able to share some time with them," Maholland said. "They are really bright, really intellectual. A really compassionate, caring group. I'm just super excited for their future. I'm super proud of them.

"They've changed my life."

Maholland was a working musician with The New Familiars before teaching. He said life on the road, performing music, helped him gain real-life experience that he could translate into the classroom.

"I take a certain level of pride in the ability to be able say to my students who were sitting in the same place that I was when I was their age, that there was only two real things that I wanted to do in life," Maholland said. "One was to be a professional musician and one was to teach English -- and somehow I've been lucky enough to do both of those things.

"There's nothing that you can't really accomplish when you set your heart and mind to it and get after it with everything you've got."

Maholland met his fiance, Ashli Crepsac (a fellow teacher) at Hopewell. The two plan to get married this summer.

"She's a [Hopewell] Titan, so we work together," Maholland said. "So she's knows what I'm talking about when I say a 'special bond' between everybody."

With the support of his fiance, family, friends and everyone at Hopewell, Maholland said he will face his battle with mesothelioma head-on.

"I'd be lying if I said it was easy," he said. "I'd be lying if I said I'm not the luckiest man I know to have the support system around me.

"Life is really what you make of it. A punishment can easily turn into a pleasurable moment depending on how you decide to define those moments. So, yeah, this is a very difficult, daunting task that's in front of us but as opposed to looking at it and going, kind of, doom-and-gloom and mucking through the day, you know, we just try to take advantage of the moments we have and just live life to the fullest."