Veteran N.J. adjunct finds that remote learning does work for her and her students

Laurie LeFever was against the idea of transitioning to remote learning when the coronavirus pandemic overtook the country.

“First of all, I was terrified,” admits LeFever, a longtime adjunct professor at Montclair State University and Raritan Valley Community College. “I was one of those professors, for good or bad, who thought, ‘You know what? I can’t teach online. I teach public speaking. It’s personal communication.’ ”

By adjusting her attitude and embracing whatever happened along the way, the admittedly technology-challenged LeFever got through the remainder of the spring 2020 semester, and she carried a similar mindset into the fully remote fall 2020 term.

“I gave a little wiggle room for late things,” she adds. “You couldn’t not hand in [assignments]. I required an openness that as long as you told me what was going on, it was OK. My mantra was, ‘No stress. We’re going to do a lot, but we’re not going to be stressed about it.’ And I think that calmed them and it calmed me.”

Everyday occurrences showing up on camera also helped with building relationships.

“They saw me in my home, and I had a lot of disturbances,” says LeFever. “I got a pandemic puppy, so between the dog, [my] daughter and the doorbell, they got to see inside my life, and I got to see inside their lives.”

On Dec. 9, LeFever’s students at Montclair State surprised her with a thank-you sign tribute, similar to the one that occurred a week prior for Adam Shrager, an adjunct at The College of New Jersey who has since experienced worldwide attention via a TikTok video of his reaction. (LeFever is not sure whether her students were inspired by the Shrager tribute.)

By sharing a photo on social media of her computer screen showing the Montclair State students’ handwritten thank-you signs, LeFever says she wasn’t patting herself on the back — rather, she was holding up her hand to calm those who continue to be skeptical of remote learning.

“Because my daughter is a freshman in high school, I’ve been hearing from parents, ‘Remote stinks. … They’re not learning anything,’ ” LeFever says. “My daughter is completely remote, and she’s doing well. They’re all down on the teachers, so I posted [my students’ thank-you tribute] to make a point: It can be good, and it can work.”