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After spending the school year seeing their new teacher on a computer screen, one little kindergartener let Andrea Meyer know he was glad to meet her “in real life person,” she recalled, chuckling. And Meyer is glad to finally to know them in “real life person” as well.
Lt. Col. Meyer started her first day back at Lincoln Trail Elementary School on Nov. 1 after being deployed to Kuwait for 400 days. She deployed in Sept. 2011.
She’s returned to new students and with new experiences from the deployment. The transition back to her life in Elizabethtown is difficult, but she described her first day back at the school as “wonderful.”
“It was just refreshing to get up and go do what you love to do,” she said.
Meyer maintained her place in the Lincoln Trail family by Skyping with her teaching assistants and students once a week. Meyer said it was essential to her mental well-being and she doesn’t know what she would have done without those virtual visits during her deployment.
“It was the longest 400 days of my life,” she said.
The group of students that Meyer, a special education teacher, taught since preschool moved on to middle school while Meyer was gone. She struggles with the fact that she missed that milestone. She considers those students and their parents her extended family.
And that made her arrival at the Louisville International Airport even sweeter when she saw that her former students were waiting for her.
“I was stunned and shocked and overwhelmed,” she said. They went to dinner together at her favorite restaurant, Olive Garden.
“We all sat down like the Waltons and ate,” she said.
Meyer is now working on resiliency training, which assists in her transition back to her life as a teacher, wife and mother. It helps returning soldiers deal with the idea that life had continued while they were gone. Meyer said she feels like it’s helping her recognize and deal with emotions that arise through the process, but it’s hard to do so.
Despite the difficulties in her deployment, Meyer is happy to have had the experience.
“It was rewarding and it was fulfilling,” she said.
She now sees the stressors in her teaching career can often be small issues compared to what she dealt with in Kuwait.
“It allows me now to put things into better perspective,” she said.
Kelly Cantrall can be reached at (270) 505-1747 or firstname.lastname@example.org.