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NEW BRITAIN, Conn. – Students at a Connecticut elementary school have extended the gift-giving season for a special teacher who is fighting cancer.

Deridre Falla has been a teacher at Diloretto School in New Britain for 21 years now. However, since April she’s been out after being diagnosed with stage four cancer.

"To not be there is, to say the least, heartbreaking," Falla told WTIC. "It's been awful, it's been my very worst nightmare in many ways."

For Christmas, students at the school knew what she was going through and came together to turn her tears of pain and suffering into tears of joy.

Her fourth graders sprang into action for the teacher they miss seeing around the halls. The students came together to buy 12 gifts, one for each of the twelve days following Christmas.

Deirdre would only be able to open one per day. Falla is filled with gratitude – especially because she is currently in remission.

However, the road ahead is still painful as internal burns on her organs need to heal. She plans on being back in her second grade classroom in September.

"I'm deeply, deeply touched," Falla said. "My heart is full of gratitude."

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