Return to Learn Concerns ― an Open Letter to Moore Public Schools

“One voice can change a room, and if one voice can change a room, then it can change a city, and if it can change a city, it can change a state, and if it change a state, it can change a nation, and if it can change a nation, it can change the world. Your voice can change the world.” ― Barak Obama

Dear Moore Public Schools Administrators and Board Members,

I teach English at Central Junior High School, where I display quotes such as the one above in my physical classroom and post them in my virtual learning environments. I encourage my students to use their voices and believe they can make a difference. I promote respect as our guiding principle, and I tell my students I will never ask them to do anything I have not done myself or would not be willing to do. If I am to continue these practices with my head held high, I must honor these ideals by voicing my concerns as respectfully as possible regarding our return to traditional learning in the classroom amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cases already have begun to spike as the result of schools reopening in states such as Indiana, Georgia, and Kansas (Shapiro, et al.), as well as Tennessee (Mangram) and more. The virus has arrived at our largest high school among custodians before we have even opened our doors. More and more school districts are deciding to delay the start of school, to begin the school year remotely, and/or to develop hybrid approaches and rotation schedules to decrease exposure (Shapiro, et al.). While the Moore Public Schools Return to Learn plan allows students and their families who are at increased risk due to underlying health conditions the option of remote learning, no such provisions exist for our district’s faculty and staff members who are at risk or have immediate family members at risk to continue being of service and maintain a viable income.

Undoubtedly, students need to be in school when schools can ensure a safe environment. We are far better equipped to meet students’ needs academically, emotionally, socially, and physically in a traditional classroom setting. But at what cost?

I want to be a team player. I want to do my part. I want to make a difference. But, I also want to preserve as many human lives as possible, and this is a life-and-death situation that is highly likely to result in negative consequences (Bendix) for students, faculty and staff members, the families of both, and, ultimately, the community at large.

This year, the notion that teachers work in the trenches seems truer than ever before. We are at far greater risk than administrators who continue to conduct meetings virtually and command their troops, so to speak, from behind the brick walls and plexiglass encasements of the Administrative Services Center.

Sound decisions are not made in fear, and I respect the fact that our district seems to embrace this truth. I write to you not in fear, but with valid concerns regarding the grave reality of the situation. I do not envy the task of the decisions you face, nor do I claim to have all of the answers. That said, as an educator and a parent, I implore you to reconsider our Return to Learn plan, ever mindful of the more than 26,500 human lives you hold in your hands.

Works Cited

Bendix, Aria. “Mounting research paints a bleak picture for schools trying to reopen. Most large schools can expect coronavirus cases within 1 week.” Business Insider, 4 Aug. 2020,

Mangrum, Meghan. “These Tennessee school districts are already reporting COVID-19 cases after reopening.” Tennessean, 7 Aug. 2020,

Shapiro, Eliza, et al. “A School Reopens, and the Coronavirus Creeps In.” The New York Times, 1 Aug. 2020,

Remembering Trey

While the world waxes poetic about the difference teachers make in the lives of students, the impact of young souls upon us is seldom spoken. Many students have made their way into my heart over the years, playing a part in molding me into the woman I am today, teaching me compassion and tolerance amid the need for upholding consequences, modeling good behavior, and apologizing when I fall short myself, as all humans do. But one in particular nestled up inside my heart and etched himself inside my mind so deeply he moved me to write about him way back when.

Today, I find myself trying to make sense of the senseless — the news that his life was taken last night. The heart of the boy with the big dimples beats no more, but his memory beats on in the hearts of many, and I am blessed to be one whose life he touched.

When I am seized with grief, my self-care includes creation. So, I created this post to capture what Trey Mitcheltree meant to me, and to illustrate how immensely one young life can impact an educator.

Navigating Trey: A Teacher’s Voyage

by L. Alicia Lacy-Scott (formerly Monroe) | 2008

I seize the chair as if it is the helm and I am about to sail into the depths of his fourteen-year-old soul. “What’s going on?” I inquire, peering into his deep sea eyes.

“I don’t know. I’ve been getting into trouble in all of my classes.” He glances down at his hands which he clasps and lays in the blue jeans fold of his lap. The short midnight hair on the crown of his head blends in with his dark Metallica T-shirt. I foresee our conversation devouring more and more of the thirty minutes allotted for lunch.

Silence surrounds us — a stark contrast from the sounds of students that filled the room during fourth hour. Now, as his classmates clamor into the cafeteria, I sit with Trey in silence. I never knew he could be this quiet. He crashes wave after wave of sarcasm against the shore, drenching others with the sting of cold salt water, mocking them with the wind. Thirty minutes ago, he sent Shelby to the counselor’s office in tears.

“You don’t know when to stop, Trey. You are so bright and so funny, but there is a fine line between wit and sarcasm, and when you aren’t careful, you cross that line. You crossed it today.”

“Shelby is too emotional,” he counters.

“Shelby is very emotional. Many girls your age are. Some of us are much better at controlling our emotions than others,” I reply. “But what you said was uncalled for. I understand you were trying to be funny, but you took it too far.”

“She’s weak. I hate people like that.”

“Trey,” I say softly, waiting for his eyes to meet mine, “I am one of those people.” His eyes search mine, then focus on the fluorescent lights marching across the ceiling. Tears spray his cheeks as he speaks of living in his brother’s shadow, of never measuring up, and of fear. This boy before me feels nothing he does is good enough. This boy before me — a black belt — fears he will go to jail for a fight even though he refused to fight back. If the punk who jumped him gets off, Trey reasons, the judge will assume his accusations are lies and lock him away for perjury. This boy before me thinks he has become the very thing he despises — weak and emotional — because he is unraveling before my eyes. Unraveling like a rope bleached by the sun, weathered by the sea.

“Trey, you are not weak,” I reassure him. “You are human. We all need someone to talk to, someone who will listen without judgment, sometime.”

“I guess you’re that ‘someone,’” he mumbles, his dimples emerging as he dries the tail-end of his tears. “Thank you,” he whispers. The bell rings.

For thirty minutes I have been lost with this boy at sea, helping him navigate his way toward land. Thirty exhausting minutes. Thirty minutes I would not trade for anything. Thirty minutes to remind me why I am here. Why I chose to be here. Why there is no place I would rather be.

Reflections on writing “Navigating Trey: A Teacher’s Voyage”

I began this piece at an OWP writing marathon in March 2008. A sculpture at the Oklahoma Art Museum titled “Man With Child” reminded me of a story I’d been meaning to get down on paper but had not yet found the time to do so. I scribbled it in my journal and tucked it away until the summer institute rolled around. Hoping to use this piece as a vignette in my thesis, I typed it and posted it on the E-Anthology.

After revising based on suggestions from people scattered across the continent, I learned of N. Scott Momaday’s three-voice narrative poems during Freeda Richardson’s presentation, “What Unites Us: The Power of Story in Native American and World Poetry.” I decided to turn this vignette into the story or first voice of a three-voice narrative illustrating the impact of teachers listening to their students. I added a second voice reflecting personally on the story and a third voice reporting my findings.

I also entered “Navigating Trey” in the OWP writing contest in January 2009, and it won the teacher prose competition. It is published in Literary Leaves, the 2009 Writing Conference Anthology, and in my thesis, which I defended May 2009.

Fund Their Future: An Open Letter to Oklahoma Legislators

I followed the painted paw prints down the hallway of Central Junior High School for the first time in 2007 when I launched my career as a teacher of English language arts. I knew not the challenges I would face as an educator; I knew only how excited I was as a former writer and editor to share my love of literacy with the young adolescents who would filter in and out of my classroom each day, in and out of my life each year. The only thing better than passing along my passion for the pen was how privileged I considered myself to be blessed with the possibility of making a difference in young lives.

Blessed indeed. Blessed to watch them blossom as readers and writers. Blessed to promote positivity and extend encouragement. Blessed to cultivate them and congratulate them, to console them and to cry with them. And, yes, even blessed to place calls to DHS on their behalf, because I was the adult some felt safe turning to with situations no child would ever encounter in an ideal world.

But this world is not ideal. And the vigor with which I approach the job I have come to view as a ministry has diminished over the years as have the conditions under which I teach. Building relationships with students, the hallmark of good teaching, becomes increasingly difficult in direct proportion to the rising number of students who filter in and out of my classroom each day, in and out of my life each year.

Never mind the troublesome task of making ends meet as the single mother of three on an Oklahoma educator’s salary who has not received a single raise during her 10-year teaching career. Never mind the books and snacks and other miscellaneous supplies I have purchased out of my own pocket despite being underpaid and underappreciated. Never mind how many extra hours I put in, regularly working alongside our evening crew of custodial staff, which has been slashed due to budget cuts while continuing to clean up after our growing body of students. Never mind the steady stream of ever-changing state standards as well as testing formats and rubrics that liken the delivery of instruction and preparation for state testing to an archery contest at which we aim arrows and send them spiraling toward moving targets year after year. Never mind the sliding scale of testing scores, which has been altered after tests were administered and results reported to prevent too many of Oklahoma’s finest from passing with a score of proficient. Never mind our governor’s rude remarks portraying me as lazy and greedy and ungrateful, comparing me to a teenager who sulks in attempt to secure a better car because I expect no less for my children, my students, and myself than the value and loyalty she demonstrates for her cabinet members, such as the significant pay raise she approved and strings she pulled for Preston Doerflinger, Secretary of Finance, despite his blatant disregard for the law, not to mention my profession.

Mind this … Oklahoma children deserve better. They deserve the best resources – technology and textbooks and teachers. Instead, they filter through hallways alongside painted paw prints and in and out of classrooms that are overcrowded and underfunded. They find themselves over-tested and undervalued. Send the message to Oklahoma’s most precious commodity that they are worth it. Fund their future.

Going Home


The magnificent mansion greets me like a guardian I have outgrown, now bearing a blue tint — a hint of sadness, it seems. Bright bougainvilleas no longer line the property. My favorite palm tree no longer perches beside the patio where I played as a child, pretending to be somewhere else, someone else — anywhere but here, anyone but me. But, if I listen carefully, it calls to me, serenading with a song of sorrow, but also, of recovery. Perhaps it sang this song all along, hoping I might hear harmony, even if only as an echo in decades to follow.

If these walls could talk, would they whisper words of wisdom? Lament losses of a family it cradled amid catastrophe? Tell traumatic tales of a tribe that did its best, but battered itself, nonetheless? The formidable fortress fought the good fight against forces of nature, after all, withstanding the likes of Hurricane Dolly. I wonder whether its walls were wounded by the wars waged within.

I am listening, old friend. You carry scars, too, but they do not define you. You still stand tall. You still serve to shelter and seek to soothe the precious people dwelling inside of you, just as I do for the little girl hiding inside of me. The little girl who became someone else, somewhere else and, after all this time, has journeyed back to put to rest the troubles of that family that did its best.

Like you, I have weathered many storms along the way, but I am still standing tall, scars and all; and I am stronger for it.

Like you, I have seen people come and go. Some I do not miss, though I cherish the lessons they taught me along the way. Some I cling to the memory of every day. Some stand beside me knowing, though I don a confident and competent face, occasionally I must embrace that little girl I have learned to listen to and love. Like the Gulf of Mexico, some ebb and flow. But this you should know …

Walls cannot speak of things people refuse to recognize. So, no need to apologize. I realize you did your best, too. The shelter you provided saw me through. And that, old friend, is enough.

My Name, Like the Hurricane

As snowflakes settled and stacked atop one another, superintendents across the metro closed school yesterday. Blessed with a day of rest, inspired by our winter wonderland, I revisited this piece I drafted with my students in response to “My Name” by Sandra Cisneros, a vignette from The House on Mango Street.

It never snowed where I grew up. Well, it did once back in the early 1900s, long before I was on the scene. Snow was a bad word in the Rio Grande Valley. Freeze was enemy to the farmer who feared for row after endless row of citrus trees. Snow meant starvation.

So we never had a snow day at school. We set out school-bound every morning, 180 days a year. There was one thing that got us out of class. Her name was Alicia, just like mine, and she was a whirling dervish of water that worked her way inland and wreaked havoc. My mother packed me, my sister, and her Bernina in the back seat of her 1978 Cordoba. No building snowmen, no hurling snowballs at each other. No sledding or snow angels. Just hour after hour in the back seat of the car—me, my sister, and the sewing machine. We raced down the road out of harm’s way, away from the hurricane that shared my name. We sought shelter at the Four Seasons Hotel. White towels, white sheets, and little white soaps in a place that implied a time for snow.

We lived in a white stucco house. We drove a white car. We had a white German shepherd. My mother sewed our dresses on a white sewing machine. We were white. Blanca. Bolias. Gringas. And me with the Spanish name. They called me Alice. They did so with affection, and embraced me in their culture; yet I longed desperately to share their Hispanic heritage. To be one of them.

My sister’s name is Cimarron. They would say it with a Spanish accent, but it is an Indian name. She with her blond hair that they loved to touch, and me, the part Sioux, part Choctaw, but mostly white gringa with the Spanish name.

I was named after Alicia Lopez, the flying trapeze artist who befriended my mother as we traveled the continent with the Shrine Circus. My father was half-owner and ringmaster. I turned six months old in Mexico City where it never snows and they call me Alice. I celebrated my first birthday in Montreal shortly after my trapeze-flying namesake taught me to walk—on the groun

I slept in a makeshift crib in the car as we drove from location to location. I still get sleepy when I ride in the car for long stints, like I did on our way home from the Four Seasons Hotel after the hurricane that shared my name died down.

We moved back to Oklahoma when I was in high school, and no one called me Alice again. But they do not pronounce my Spanish name properly. In Spanish, you say each syllable. Uh-lee-see-uh. Here in Indian territory, where they know my sister’s name, they call me Uh-lee-shuh. Here where it snows in the cold season. Here where we occasionally have enough snowfall for snowmen and snow angels and snow days. Here where we hurl snow balls at each other, and they say, “Heads up, Uh-lee-shuh!”

Alicia is my middle name. When I write my name, I precede Alicia with a lonely L, which stands for LeeAnne. Who can’t pronounce LeeAnne? Who would hesitate calling a freckle-faced gringa LeeAnne? LeeAnne who likes snow and doesn’t look like an Indian. LeeAnne who no longer writes a lonely L at the beginning of her name

Dear Younger Me


On a day when my head was loosely wrapped around a lesson at best, I prayed for inspiration, and what evolved was a beautiful thing! After playing “Dear Younger Me” by MercyMe for my students, they were highly engaged in brainstorming and writing insightful letters to their younger selves. I felt compelled to join them. This is my first draft.

Dear Younger Me,

Your love of language will intrigue you, entertain you, and, at times, sustain you. It will lead you down two career paths—first, as a journalist; second, as an English teacher. The words of others will bring you to your knees and help you stand tall—from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to William Paul Young; from Mary Oliver to Robert Frost; from Jane Austin and Kate Chopin to Stan Lee and J.R.R. Tolkien. Furthermore, your own words will heal you in ways you never imagined.

One of the greatest lessons you will learn is echoed in Aragorn’s exclamation to Frodo and his fellow Hobbits near the end of The Return of the King: “My friends, you bow to no man.” You will spend years bowing to men. It will ensure your survival while you are young, and it will prove perhaps your biggest challenge in life to overcome.

Rest assured, you will overcome it, sweet girl. You will realize and ultimately internalize some simple truths. You have far more courage than you ever imagined. You need bow to nothing of this world—only to your Maker, who loves you unconditionally in ways you cannot fathom, and who is always by your side.

You are not responsible for the suffering you endured as a child. You are, however, responsible for the suffering you will seek out obliviously as an adult, because it is familiar. What’s more, you will continue to put yourself through it until you finally understand your own worth and consciously decide daily to follow God’s will and treat yourself as the treasure you are. All of this is a process, and God will place people in your path along the way who will prove instrumental in your journey.

These people, little one, are the most important part. Some will be a positive force in your life, and some will be negative; but, they all present opportunities for growth. Therefore, they all offer reasons to be thankful. Love them all. Set boundaries to protect yourself as necessary, and spend time with those who treat you with respect. But, love every one of them the way God loves you, and your heart and soul will soar all the more for it.

Forgive, let go, live for the moment, be grateful, and be of service to others. For gratitude is an attitude all who are willing can embrace, no matter their circumstances. And, a grateful heart is a happy, humble heart. Moreover, being of service to others is why we are here, whether it’s taking care of family, lending a helping hand to friends, providing a safe place for students, or volunteering locally or in a third world country.

When we find ways to seek God’s will and be of service with a happy, humble heart … that is when we truly live. And you, beautiful child, were born to live!

All my love,
Older Me

God Finally Gave Me a Girl

Once again inspired to pair my passion to pen with technology, I endeavor to electronically etch my experience, strength and hope in cyberspace. What sparked this blaze for blogging? That would be none other than my daughter-in-law, Janiece. A young woman in her early twenties whose wisdom never ceases to amaze me, she recently began to capture her story in heartfelt fragments found at Faithfully Sassy, and my fingers have fancied frolicking on the keyboard ever since.

When my first husband and I discovered we were expecting our first child, we were whimsically warned to anticipate a boy, as no females had been born into the Monroe clan for centuries. I looked around at these people I dearly loved, noted the presence of all the male-born Monroes alongside the females restricted to those who, like me, had married into the family, and wondered what the odds really were. But, gender mattered not. In fact, I opted not to know the gender during routine ultrasounds. After all, I like surprises—at least the pleasant ones. As long as the little one inside of me, whom I affectionately dubbed “the parasite,” was healthy, I was happy. And he was. I was blessed with a baby boy we named Bobby, who never seemed to stop bouncing. The tradition of male Monroeism continued to ring true five years later, when God gave me Ethan, and again six years after that, when Heaven sent Harry. 

Because I was happy with boys, and I knew what to do with boys, I decided I was meant to the be the mother of boys. Occasionally, I felt a little pang for long locks to tame with bows and braids. Mostly, however, I was content to play with Hot Wheels and Legos, read adventure and mythological series from modern marvels such as Rick Riordan to legends like J.R.R. Tolkien, cheer on my soccer studs at games near and far, teach the importance of winning with humility and losing with grace, and oversee apologies in the aftermath of altercations, which seemed so much simpler with boys. In fact, I found myself mumbling miniature prayers of gratitude punctuated by sighs of relief to have escaped the drama of mean girls and the “princess phenomenon,” which eluded my youth despite toe shoes and tutus. It never occurred to me that, had God given me a girl, she might have been more like me; which is ironic, given how much my eldest son and I have in common. 

Speaking of my eldest, one day Bobby brought home a girl named Janiece. Somewhere in between impromptu visits, casual cookouts, holiday festivities, the birth of yet another bouncing baby boy (my first grandson, Oliver, who continues the long lineage of Monroe men), and the most beautiful wedding I’ve ever seen (bias acknowledged with no apologies), it came to me. An epiphany. If God had given me a girl, I would have wanted her to be just like Janiece—a sagacious and spiritual but sassy lass who is comfortable donning a dress or digging in dirt. A sweet soul with a sense of humor who strives for humility, shimmers with possibility, and is not afraid to be bossy, but does so with finesse. 

Lo and behold, God finally gave me a girl. His perfect timing awes me. Sometimes it perplexes me. Sometimes it frustrates the heck out of me. But always, it is what’s best for me.

God Spoke to Me Through Stan Lee

“With great power comes great responsibility.” Wise words wielded by the witty webbed wonder’s Uncle Ben. I have always had an affinity for Spidey. For years, I assumed my adoration of Spider-Man centered around the hopeless romantic within me, courtesy of the codependence that began coursing through my veins in the cradle. I fantasized of frolicking in Peter Parker’s world. The unconditional love. The selflessness. The sacrifice of denying himself his one true love in order to protect her from villains with a vendetta.

This had to be the only link between me and Stan Lee’s comic book character, right? Because I certainly didn’t struggle with how to use great power responsibly. After all, I had no power. Surrendering to that one truth (or so it seemed) ensured survival during my youth. I’m a quick study, and I do nothing halfway. So I learned at a tender age to submit, and I submitted wholeheartedly. I wasn’t certain I had no power, for to be certain of something one must first conceive of the possibility. Power was not something I so much as pondered the potential of possessing. Rather than relating to Spider-Man’s inner conflict, I rolled over and waited for him to save me.

I waited for 40 long years. Little did I know, after leaving home, I no longer needed my submissive survival skills. But I had been steeped in them, and I knew nothing of power other than how to be its prey.

Power in my possession felt like poison. When I didn’t have someone willing to plunder my power, which, let’s face it, required pick-pocketing prowess reminiscent of a Laurel and Hardy skit, I hurled my power at others as if it was a hot potato and I was sure to be scorched if I didn’t pass it to someone far better equipped to handle it. Someone. Anyone. Take my power. Please! My old friends Self-Pity and Shame won’t be able to stick around and play if you don’t take my power immediately. Oh, and for this to work, not only must you snatch it promptly, but also, you must find a way to use it against me.

So maybe Spidey and I had more in common than I thought. For I, too, needed to learn how to accept the power I had been given and use it responsibly. And my tale, too, albeit far from a story of star-crossed lovers, is much like Peter Parker plainly states of his—it is a story about a girl.

My story is not about a glamorous red-headed performer, and it certainly is not told from the point of view of a superhero enamored with her, much less a boy. My story is not the story of mysogynistic men with whom the abuse began. Nor is it the story of alcoholics or unfortunates befallen to other addictions—”isms” I allowed to steal my spirit and define me. Those stories are not mine to tell. My story is about a girl named Alicia, which, interestingly, means truth, and it’s narrated by yours truly. My story is about a tall, freckle-faced girl who, thanks to the guidance of some wise and wonderful people placed in her path, gets down on her knees every morning and prays for more faith, humility and compassion; for acceptance of and surrender to His will; for relief from her obsessions which, aside from a scandalous on-again, off-again love affair with food, amount largely to striving for perfection in herself and others. Oh, and speaking of others, I seem to have this silly little habit of focusing on what others should be doing and what I must do next to “help” them see the light and do that which they should be doing instead. I pray daily for God to relieve me of this silly little habit too.

As long as I can remember, I have battled addictions. Powerless as I was, I knew that some day I would stumble upon the one thing I needed to do right, the one thing that would make someone love me enough to quit drinking, make someone love me enough to accept me as I am, make someone love me as much as Spider-Man loves Mary Jane.

Truth is, Someone already does. Someone has all along. Someone has loved me and accepted me more than I could ever have imagined. In the shroud of addiction which wells up like a mighty gray funnel cloud and sucks everyone and everything into the whirlwind, the One who put the stars in the sky and freckles on my face was with me the whole time, watching over me like Spider-Man, waiting for me to feel His palm on my cheek, His presence in my soul, His power ready to empower me. And with that great power, by default, always comes responsibility so great it surpasses our limited human understanding.

I am learning to lean on that One.