Student Teaching During Hurricane Harvey

Shelby Ward, a senior from the McKay School of Education, was student teaching in Houston, Texas, during Hurricane Harvey.

Back-to-school is traditionally a time for new pencils, red apples, and first day jitters. However, for student teachers in Texas this past August, going back to school was met with news of a hurricane that would cause extensive damage around the state. Hurricane Harvey hit between August 25, 2017, and September 3, 2017, four days into the new school year. 
 
Shelby Ward on her first day student teaching.McKay School of Education student Shelby Ward, who is student teaching in the Aldine Independent School District in Houston, Texas, first heard about Hurricane Harvey two days before it hit. At that point school had not been canceled, causing her eighth-grade history students to worry. When the storm became a Category 3 hurricane, the announcement was made that school would be canceled starting August 25 and would reopen once the damages were assessed, repaired, and deemed safe. 
 
Ward and her two roommates, other student teachers from the McKay School, immediately went to Walmart to pick up supplies and water as they planned to wait out the hurricane in their apartment in The Woodlands, Texas. Ward recounted that the store was sold out of water, but luckily, the girls were still able to stock up on food, flashlights, and other emergency essentials. 
 
On August 24 the girls remained in their apartment despite the optional evacuation. Ward described feelings of anxiety and an overall “eerie” feeling in the apartment that night. “Maybe it’s because hurricanes have names, but they just sound very scary,” Ward remarked. 
 
On Friday morning, Ward’s roommate received a call from her parents who happened to be visiting relatives in Austin, Texas, at the time. They told the three girls to leave their apartment immediately, and meet them so that they could wait out the storm in their RV. The three girls spent the remainder of Hurricane Harvey in the RV, watching the floods around them. Ward said that, “It was good to not be [in The Woodlands], it was a lot less stressful.”
 
hiShe returned to her apartment five days later, surprised and relieved that despite all the devastation around her, her apartment was in good condition. In the areas surrounding The Woodlands, relief efforts were already in full swing to help individuals who had lost nearly everything. 
 
“When we were driving down from Austin, there was a lane that was full of cars [pulling] boats. These were private citizens who were using their own boats. They were down here to help people,” said Ward. “There were some places where you could not get a car, so they boated over. They’ve rescued so many people.”
 
Ward has been surprised by the relief efforts and the selflessness of the Texans around her. “It amazes me how much Texans love each other. It’s very inspiring that it doesn’t matter what you look like or where you come from, Texans just love you.”
 
Ward expressed appreciation for the constant communication from Al Merkley, assistant dean in the McKay School of Education. He contacted her and the other student teachers before and after the hurricane to make sure that they were safe and that their needs were met. She shared that she always felt taken care of during this nerve-racking time. 
 
Texas is a different place since Hurricane Harvey hit, but Texans are rebuilding and picking up the pieces. Prior to classes beginning again, the teachers in Ward’s school were given training about how to handle the hardships their students might be facing as a result of the hurricane. Ward’s school district reopened its doors on September 7, nearly two weeks after the storm. School is now back in session for the students despite the hardships of the last few weeks, showing the world that even a hurricane can’t stop them from learning. 
 
Writer: Camilla Rowe
Contact: Cynthia Glad (801) 422-1922