Alaina Orgeron says she knew she wanted to be a teacher at three years old and gives credit to her older sister. The two would play school at home in Ville Platte during the summer. At nine years old, her older sister taught Mrs. Orgeron to read. The University View Academy, eighth grade English Language Arts teacher, loves reading, and that passion guided her in college. “I was strong in English and math. English would allow me to read a lot more, and that’s the path I chose,” Alaina related. Her undergraduate degree is in English Literature, and she has a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction, both from LSU. She’s taught for 15 years.
Mrs. Orgeron’s teaching philosophy is straightforward. “Every student absolutely can learn, and we just have to figure out how,” she said bluntly. “You set the standards and expectations high and let the kids revel in success. They will learn from the challenges and struggles,” she offered. Her middle school students are beginning their teenage years. They balance literary texts, informational texts, science, and social studies topics when they can, and learn to put it in writing. Alaina says, “It seems to be a good space for students trying to figure themselves out.” Mrs. Orgeron says much of what they read in middle school allows them to relate to characters. One book they’re assigned is “The Outsiders,” which teaches students how to deal with conflict and siblings. It’s about teen boys in Oklahoma in the 1960s. It depicts fighting, family, brotherhood, and friendships; many of the emotions youngsters deal with during preadolescence.
Alaina’s lesson plan did not have a roadmap for how students would react and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. She recounted a lot of anxiety last spring when the quarantine was ordered and brick and mortar schools closed. UVA remained open due to its online exemption, and as time elapsed, the angst she perceived in her students and school families relaxed. Now, Mrs. Orgeron says she senses a bit of normalcy. “I feel for the start of the school year we are better prepared to serve students. We’re not starting from scratch,” referring to other districts still trying to figure out how to educate students. “All of our systems are online. We communicate with students that way. We have been able to convert brick and mortar instruction in the virtual environment,” she added.
Mrs. Orgeron also has praise for UVA’s family-like feel, something she hadn’t experienced before during ten years of teaching in brick and mortar schools. “We are a large school but still have a small school feel in our interactions,” she observed. She says she also likes the flexibility offered to students and teachers at University View Academy. “I have a lot more time to get to know the students and parents. I feel more connected since there weren’t many opportunities to do that in a brick and mortar school.”