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Lessons from Harvey for a First-Year Teacher [11/28/2017]

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Creech Elementary School in Katy ISD — where first-year Baylor teacher Lucy Boe, BSEd ’17, was teaching — flooded from Hurricane Harvey a week after school started.

All teachers remember the first classroom they set up on their own — the carefully crafted bulletin boards, the books so lovingly chosen, the shared treasures from their own childhood. That’s exactly the kind of love and care that new Baylor graduate Lucy Boe, BSEd ’17, poured into her first classroom at Creech Elementary in Katy ISD.

“I had been a teacher for seven days when the hurricane hit,” Boe said. “We had no idea — I didn’t take anything home that night; I left everything plugged in.”

First-grade teacher Lucy Boe in her new classroom on the Cinco Ranch campus of the University of Houston.

It was days before she knew that her school had been filled with five feet of water from Hurricane Harvey, and Boe’s only immediate concerns were for her students.

“Even though we had only started school a week before, they were already family,” she said. “I saw my students on TV being taken from their homes in boats. I didn’t think about the school; I just thought about my students. I sent them an email that I was praying for them and asking what I could do to help.”

Over the next few days, every student family was accounted for. Then news about the damage to the school began to spread. A fellow teacher texted her a photo of the outside of the school, and an email came from the principal saying the water was not receding. “Then the school was on CNN,” she said. At some point, it all became a blur.

Finally, an email came from Katy ISD announcing school would resume on Sept. 11 and that teachers should report on Sept. 6. Boe was relieved. But the email was quickly followed by another one saying that Creech Elementary was not included. “I wondered if I had a job, if the kids would have to go somewhere else, and I worried about our kids and if they were OK,” she said.

The Snoopy reading dog house from Lucy’s original classroom was lost it the flood. On the bookshelf, under the “D” in “READ,” you can see Paddington Bear.

Eventually the school was relocated to space on the Cinco Ranch campus of the University of Houston. (The university had intended to sell the property, but changed plans to accommodate Creech students.) Boe learned later that plans for the elementary school had been changing hourly and that her principal had adamantly refused to allow the school to be broken apart.

“She definitely did an amazing job,” Boe said. “Is it all roses and perfect? Not exactly — but everyone could come, everyone has a job, and everyone is together.”

Boe had only one day to set up her classroom again. There’s no little dog house or hand-painted rocking chair for reading, and there’s no smart board. But donations came rolling in, and Boe has everything she truly needs, she said. “We had anything and everything you can think of — it was all donated,” she said. “All the teachers could go book shopping and grab as many books as we wanted. We received supplies from teachers as far away as Vermont and California. It was really incredible.”

Lucy lost her hand-painted reading chair in the flood, along with the school’s smart board on the left.

Boe was able to rescue one special item from her flooded classroom — a Paddington Bear that she bought while studying abroad in London with the Baylor School of Education. He sat on the top of a bookshelf; all of the students knew he was from England and that he was special to Miss Boe. “I’m a teacher, so when am I going to get to go to London again?” she said.

Saving her bear inspired Boe (with a suggestion from her mother) to write and illustrate a children’s book for her class, with the intent of donating proceeds beyond the cost to Houstonians impacted by Hurricane Harvey. She said she was also inspired by SOE assistant professor Dr. Lakia Scott, who wrote a children’s book about the Baylor Education mission trip to a school in Ghana.

Explore the adventure of “Harvey” the bear in Lucy’s book.

In Boe’s book, titled “Harvey,” a little bear from London tells the story of being deserted on a shelf in Miss Boe’s classroom until she finally returns to rescue him. Boe hoped it was a happy ending her students could relate to, and they did. She gave a book to each student, and several parents told her that reading the book helped their child talk about the hurricane.

Boe donated her book money to the Santa Cops program in Katy ISD to purchase Christmas gifts for kids in need. “The list is long this year,” she said. Early estimates were that 15,000 Katy ISD student homes were damaged and 2,600 teachers suffered damage. By early November, only three of Boe’s students were back in their own homes.

Boe’s original classroom was filled with a lifetime of collected teaching materials. “I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was 5, so my parents and I have bought things since then to put in my first classroom — different bears, books that my mom read to me as a baby, they were all in that classroom,” she said. Perhaps the greatest loss, she said, was notes from the students she taught while at Baylor as a student teacher. “I was most sad about that,” she said. “All those ‘I love you’ notes were in my bottom desk drawer.”

But Boe also sees the silver linings and the learning experiences she has gained. “I have certainly learned to be flexible,” she said. “Honestly, it’s just a new thing every day. I used to be the new person, but at the new campus we are all on the same playing field; no one knows what to do!”

Boe said that only a teacher can understand the sorrow of losing her classroom. “I don’t think you get it unless you’re a teacher,” she said. “You put your heart and soul into your classroom.”

Boe still wants her classroom to be “cute,” but she realizes that’s not what is really important.

“When they came back, my students didn’t care about those things,” she said. “They only care about you. They need you. They just want you, and they want to learn.”

She added, “I wish I didn’t have to learn it the way I did.”

Lucy had one day to set up this second classroom before school resumed on Sept. 11 in Katy ISD.


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Founded in 1919, Baylor School of Education ranks among the nation’s top 20 education schools located at private universities. The School’s research portfolio complements its long-standing commitment to excellence in teaching and student mentoring. Baylor’s undergraduate program in teacher education has earned national distinction for innovative partnerships with local schools that provide future teachers deep clinical preparation, while graduate programs culminating in both the Ed.D. and Ph.D. prepare outstanding leaders, teachers and clinicians through an intentional blend of theory and practice.

ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

2 Comments

  1. Wow! What an inspirational story, and her first year! Baylor taught her well!

  2. Inspiring story! Thank you Lucy for your commitment to teaching and learning and your students! Cannot wait to read Harvey–ordering now! 🙂 Sic’em Bears!

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