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Chicago teacher battling cancer shows up to school despite canceled classes, warns against people using teachers unions as a 'tool for political gain'

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Image source: YouTube video screenshot

Chicago Public Schools have been canceled since Wednesday after 73% of the Chicago Teachers Union voted to return to remote work because of COVID-19 fears. However, the school district doesn't want teachers working remotely, so all classes have been canceled after the union was accused of staging an illegal walkout. Despite classes being canceled, teacher Joseph Ocol still showed up at his classroom on Wednesday willing to teach his students in person. Ocol is ready to teach in-person classes despite battling cancer.

"There were no students, and I was the only teacher there," Ocol told WBBM-TV. "I miss my students. It’s just that this is a different situation, and I feel sad about this."

Ocol – who teaches five classes in math and algebra – said he is "not aware" of any of his 82 students or any teachers he knows currently infected with COVID-19. He advocates for a school-to-school decision on closing based on COVID-19 cases.

"Of course, I agree that there has to be safety measures, but it should be done in a sweeping way – because there are schools that don't have COVID," Ocol said.

CPS Teacher Joseph Ocol Comes To School Despite Remote Learning Vote www.youtube.com

"I joined the Chicago public schools as a teacher first and foremost and I believe my role should be inside the classroom with my students," Ocol told host Tucker Carlson. "I did not join CPS to be a union member."

Ocol blasted anyone using the Chicago Teachers Union or students as political weapons.

"I believe that there are ways to fight City Hall," Ocol said. "You don’t dangle the plight of the kids in the middle of the fight just to seek your demands."

"There are other ways. I have nothing against the union," he continued. "But I have something against people using the union as a tool for political gain."

Ocol warned that remote learning is detrimental to both children and parents.

"I have done the remote learning for more than a year with the students," he explained. "I have seen the limitations and the challenges that a teacher has with remote learning. It's not really effective."

He noted that some students would simply "log on and just not be there" during remote learning sessions.

"I feel it’s not also fair to the parents," the teacher added. "The parents need to be with the students when they should be earning a living."

Ocol has been a Chicago Public Schools teacher for 17 years, as well as an after-school chess mentor.

"Police surveys [show] that the most dangerous time for a student to be outside a school building is from 3 to 6 p.m.," Ocol told Fox News Digital. "So that's when I opted to start the chess program after school to keep kids inside the building. It's not just about winning games, although later on, the kids were winning medals and trophies, but it's more about saving lives. That was my goal then."

Ocol's chess team at Earle STEM Academy won a national championship in 2016 and was invited to meet former President Obama.

"Despite my battling cancer, I still have a role to play right now," Ocol said during a Fox News appearance on "Tucker Carlson Tonight." "I just want to make my life relevant somehow, the thought that I can still be of service to my students and I can touch their lives and make a difference in their lives."

When asked about having cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ocol replied, "I consider that another challenge in my life. I keep on praying that somehow I'll still be able to manage my life to be significant to my students. At all, you never know the time value of the moment until it's become a memory, and I want to become part of the memory of my students."

"I learned about the end of life what really matters," Ocol said. "Not what we vote [for], but what we do. Not what we got, but what we shared … More about our success with our significance in the lives of others. I want to live a life that matters. And that's very important for me."

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