Faith in the Face of Disaster

Liann Almeida

Liann Almeida

On May 3, 2016, Liann Almeida [BEd 2015] went to work as usual as an elementary school teacher in downtown Fort McMurray, Alberta. At the time, everyone was aware of a forest fire in the area but assumed it was under control. The day started with clear skies, but by the afternoon the situation had drastically changed as the fire reached Fort McMurray.

An evacuation order was issued. Liann and her colleagues had to ensure that each one of her young students was accounted for and that all were reunited with their parents or boarded on emergency buses. Some of her students had special needs and needed additional reassurance.

Everyone in Fort McMurray had to leave via one main highway, which quickly snarled with the number of evacuees. Liann made the harrowing journey with her family as the fire closed in. “God sent his angels to rescue the residents of Fort McMurray – 88,000 people made it out alive. It was such a huge fire, but no one was injured and no deaths were reported. For me that’s a miracle in itself,” she notes.

When they had been evacuated to Edmonton, she called each of her students’ families to make sure they were safe. Many were in university dormitories or scattered across Edmonton. “These displaced kids had nothing. The community was attending to them, but it’s our job as teachers to be there for them,” she shared. Through a connection, she worked with Save the Children to create child-friendly spaces and made an open call to her fellow teachers for volunteers. In these spaces, children had the opportunity to express themselves through art and communicate what they were going through. Liann was eventually able to say good-bye to the children, knowing they were safe and head back to the Greater Toronto Area to continue teaching.

Every skill I learned at Tyndale I utilized in my teaching career.

Liann feels specifically called to be a teacher. In 2011, while working as an Early Childhood Educator (ECE), she heard the voice of God calling her to apply to teacher’s college. Liann felt she had gained valuable and practical foundational knowledge in the Bachelor of Education program at Tyndale. She particularly took note of the faith of the professors and other staff and their readiness to support students. They ensured all the teacher candidates felt valued and encouraged to accomplish their goals even when faced with unexpected challenges. With those skills, she was able to motivate her students and find new ways to inspire them. “Every skill I learned at Tyndale I utilized in my teaching career,” she notes. Referring to Jeremiah 29:11, Liann also adds, “I feel honoured and blessed to have,been a Bachelor of Education student at Tyndale. It was God’s plan for me to be here.”