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.”

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