Clouds rolled into Louisiana pouring over two feet of rain in some areas and breaking flood records across the state. Brick-and-mortar schools were forced to close. But even as her own street flooded, Louisiana Virtual Charter Academy (LAVCA) teacher Heather McFarland stayed on schedule and continued instructing her students online.
“I only had one child say they were too out of sorts from being flooded,” said McFarland, a World History and Careers in Criminal Justice teacher at LAVCA, whose mission is to provide families with educational choice by offering an online, real-world experience. “We did have a lot of families that were displaced, but they still had internet service—and that’s one of the benefits of the LAVCA online format. Students can still continue their studies, even if they’re displaced. As long as they are in a secure location, all they have to do is log on.”
McFarland teaching her online classes during the Louisiana floods.
Teaching from her Monroe, La.-home, which McFarland describes as an island sitting on an 8-foot incline on her flooded street, the teacher was able to provide a level of stability and routine to help her students stay focused on their lessons and keep their minds off the surrounding crisis.
“Keeping students in their daily structure helped to relieve their worry about whether they’re going to be ok. When you get kids out of their daily routines, that’s when the anxiety sets in,” said this American Pioneer Teaching Award national runner-up.
McFarland, a former brick-and-mortar school teacher, said Louisiana is rife with dangerous weather, from tornadoes to hurricanes and flooding—and she has experienced it all. But she feels a sense of relief teaching online, both for her students and herself. During the flood crisis, McFarland maintained her focus on her lesson plans without having to worry about the safety of her students.
“I knew my students were in the safe care of their families, so I didn’t have that constant anxiety about how I am going to be able to provide safety for them,” she said. “The learning continued.”
As McFarland plans the rest of her lessons for the week—which will all run on schedule, the biggest worry she has now has nothing to do with her classroom, but helping out her neighbors.
“The only thing changing in my schedule is stepping up my community service and doing my part to help the region recover.”