Lessons From The Heart

Former student helps Hyer third graders learn about cardiac conditions, health

Molly Nolan uses her life experiences to educate third-grade talented and gifted (TAG) students at her alma mater, Hyer Elementary, about heart health.

Nolan has tetralogy of Fallot, a condition caused by four heart defects present at birth that affect the heart’s structure and cause oxygen-poor blood to flow out to the rest of the body, according to the Mayo Clinic. 

She speaks to students in Hyer’s third grade TAG Explorations class about her condition, other heart abnormalities, and doctors’ procedures to treat them.

Her visits to Hyer started about 12 years ago when a friend who had a child in the class asked if she wanted to speak to the students as part of their lessons about heart health. Those lessons include dissecting a pig heart. 

Nolan has spoken at Hyer each year since, except for 2020, because of the pandemic.

“It’s great that they want to learn about abnormalities so they can learn about the heart,” Nolan said. 

As part of her presentation, Nolan discusses how a normal heart compares to that of someone with tetralogy of Fallot and shows videos that demonstrate how procedures like valve replacement and devices like pacemakers and defibrillators work.

“When you have Tetralogy of Fallot, your heart looks really different from the normal heart,” student Emma Elverum said. “The pictures were really cool and explained the differences.” 

Nolan’s doctor has provided such learning tools as several pacemakers to bring and teach the students about how they work to regulate heart rate and rhythm. 

“It was cool how she passed around the pacemakers, and we got to touch them,” student Timmy Chong added.

Nolan, though, most enjoys seeing what the students learn. 

“The most special part of the whole thing is seeing what they take away from it,” she said of the students. “I like to broaden their learning and broaden their knowledge.”

She said one of the things she asks the students is, “how would you treat your friend if they couldn’t walk a mile with you?”

“I think kids are more aware of differences,” Nolan added. “They’re so smart. I ask a lot of questions of them.”

Teacher Carrie Boydston said, “The students and I love when Molly comes to our classroom.

“She provides an authentic learning experience for the students by putting the human touch on our study of the heart,” Boydston said. “Her energy and sense of humor are unmatched, and I’m so thankful for her willingness to share her story with us.”

Rachel Snyder

Rachel Snyder, deputy editor at People Newspapers, joined the staff in 2019, returning to her native Dallas-Fort Worth after starting her career at community newspapers in Oklahoma. One of her stories won first place in its category in the Oklahoma Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest in 2018. She’s a fan of puns and community journalism, not necessarily in that order. You can reach her at [email protected]

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