February 2021 Top Notch Teacher: Cathy Burge

HOLMEN, Wis. (WKBT) – The Coulee Region Virtual Academy just got underway last year and is teaching La Crosse area students the same curriculum they would learn in the classroom, but in a remote way.

It’s another online option for kids to learn safely during the pandemic.

Some places we live in just click with the people we’re surrounded by.

“It’s been a welcoming community for us,” 3rd grade Coulee Region Virtual Academy teacher Cathy Burge said.

Burge has been a teacher for 33 years, 21 of them in Holmen.

“I wanted to make a difference in the lives in children,” Burge said.

Like most other teachers, she says she takes pride in making connections with her students.

“I was a little afraid I would not be able to do that virtually,” Burge said.

Like hugging her students at the end of the school day.

“And so I’m missing that part of the teaching,” Burge said.

But she decided to take a chance to teach through the CRVA that started in July, despite not having any experience with remote teaching.

“I had to learn. That’s why teachers are lifelong learners,” Burge said.

Burge is finding out the virtual learning environment is different, and not just because she can’t hug her kids.

“They’re dictating the curriculum, instead of me being the boss of the curriculum,” Burge said. “And I think they really like that. I think they like having that control.”

In normal school, kids don’t get to see the teacher a whole lot out of class. But Burge says virtual learning has changed that.

“I’m teaching a lot of one-on-one with the kids where I can meet their needs where they’re at,” Burge said.

It’s not the norm of traditional school, but the method works.

“I found that the kids just want to know you care about them, and the families want to know that you have their child’s interest in your heart and in your mind,” Burge said.

Teaching in-person or virtually doesn’t matter, just as long as the kids remember something about you.

“I always tell the kids that when they’re leaving at the end of the year, that each one of them has a piece of my heart,” Burge said.

And even though it will be a virtual goodbye for Burge and her students this summer, that community connection will remain.

Burge says she’s not sure if she’s going to continue teaching virtually or in-person in the future.

She’s taught students in first, second, third and fifth grades.