WURTLAND It was a Wednesday, a school night, when Shannon Wilburn’s power flickered off around 11:30 p.m.
Wilburn remembers the time because she was grading papers and checking assignments on Google Classroom when her Grayson area home went dark.
That was almost two weeks ago, when the first snow and ice storm hit Northeast Kentucky. Wilburn put up with the chill until the following Sunday, when predictions of a second storm prompted her to pack up her laptop and other necessities and stay with her son in Bellefonte until the ice retreated.
It wasn’t that she couldn’t endure the cold and dark — she has toughed it out before. But without power she would be hard-pressed to keep in touch with her students in this pandemic year of virtual education. And she did not want to let them down.
“I turned off the water and drained the lines and left, because at that point, I couldn’t work," she said. She spent last week sharing her son’s couch with his golden doodle pooch and two cats, creating and posting assignments for her Wurtland Middle School students.
For a solid week she worked from there. She has neighbors to look after her house, and her students needed extra attention because the storm hit them as hard as it hit her.
"I didn’t want them to get behind so I gave them activities that would be fun and related to the content ... but my main concern was whether the kids were OK. At times like this we want to let them know that we’re still here for them even though they’re not at school," she said.
She and her fellow teachers also did their best to determine if students needed anything and helped them find resources they needed.
All week she wondered whether her house would remain intact for her return.
“I worried the whole time. I’ve never left my house before in a crisis. I’ve always stuck it out,” she said.
Her students didn’t get in touch as frequently as typical during the ice-bound week, but Wilburn still found herself staying up late checking up on them.
Her power is back on and on Monday she was hoping to make the move back home.
In her 30-plus years of teaching, Wilburn doesn’t recall anything to compare. “This whole year has been a series of anomalies that don’t relate to anything I’ve seen in my career.
“But whatever the obstacles, we have to find some way to deal with them and go on,” she said.