Online or in a classroom, teachers matter

5/15/2017

Kerry Levi, Greenville Online

We can agree that teachers play an impactful role in our children’s lives. It wasn’t until my son TJ was diagnosed with a serious medical condition that I discovered just how much a great teacher matters. This is National Teacher Appreciation Week, I’m especially grateful for Addy Andrews, the teacher who has made it possible for TJ to learn.

Until three years ago, TJ was a typical, healthy child. He did well in school and had lots of friends. At age nine, out of nowhere, he developed hydrocephalus, a condition where water forms in his brain. It is mostly found in infants. In addition to frequent corrective surgeries — eight in the last three years — which have caused him to miss school, TJ’s condition also creates learning challenges.

TJ suffers from memory loss after surgeries. It isn’t that TJ forgets information, but rather that he can’t recall it quickly. In his old school, he struggled to keep pace with classroom lessons and tests. I could feel his disappointment whenever he tried hard but didn’t do well. Sometimes he was brought to tears or acted out in the classroom. I can’t blame his old teachers for removing him from the class when this happened, but it does show why a great teacher is so important.

When it became apparent he would no longer thrive in a traditional school, I enrolled TJ in the Cyber Academy of South Carolina, an online public school where he can use a laptop computer at home or anywhere else with an internet connection, like the hospital. He takes classes just like the ones he took at the previous school.

His sixth-grade math teacher, Mrs. Andrews, has gone above and beyond to support TJ in his journey.  She may teach online, but Mrs. Andrews is the real deal. She is always available for my son! She even visited him in the hospital after one of his surgeries, bringing a care package and sitting beside his hospital bed to encourage him. It’s not like she lives around the corner in our community at the local public school. She has made an effort to show TJ how much he means to her! Through her special care and attention, Mrs. Andrews has not only put TJ on track with his studies but helped him stay there consistently.

I had been nervous to enroll TJ in an online school because I wasn’t sure how the quality of education would be. Almost immediately after making the switch, however, TJ’s demeanor was happier, due to a change of atmosphere and some great teachers.

When he’s studying with Mrs. Andrews, TJ seems happiest. He sees her often because she gives him special lessons or tutoring sessions whenever he needs them. What I appreciate most about Mrs. Andrews is that she always makes herself available by quickly returning phone calls and e-mails. It seems some teachers work at online schools because they like the flexibility of the schedule just as much as the students do. Mrs. Andrews even takes time out of her day to work with me, individually, showing me how to be a teacher’s aid of sorts to my son.

Thankfully, after switching to an online school, TJ was able to get the personalized attention he needed. He’s back on track with his studies. I attribute his turnaround to his new school but even more so to his wonderful teachers, who’ve dedicated their time to seeing my son succeed — not just in school, but in life.

Kerry Levi is the mother of eight children and resides in Travelers Rest

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