Chris Dier missed out on his own senior year when Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005.

By Meghan Overdeep
March 20, 2020
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Credit: Helen Cortez/EyeEm/Getty Images

Chris Dier is Louisiana’s 2020 Teacher of the Year and a finalist for national Teacher of the Year, and he has a message for the thousands of high school seniors who find themselves spending their last semester stuck at home due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“This was supposed to be your year,” Dier writes in an open letter published on his personal blog. “Let’s be abundantly clear—you were robbed, and it’s unfair.”

“If you’re upset, then you should embrace those feelings. Commiserate with one another,” he continues. “Some folks will downplay the situation because they won’t know what it feels like to have their senior year stripped at the last moment.”

Dier, who teaches world history and AP human geography at Chalmette High School in St. Bernard Parish, is not one of those people. He was in high school when Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana in 2005.

“I remember leaving my school on a Friday afternoon with my buddies only to never return to that school,” he recalls. “I was supposed to be the captain of my soccer team, go to prom with my longtime crush, and finish the year with my lifelong friends. But it was all canceled.”

Instead, Dier stayed in a shelter and was forced to finish high school in a different state.

“It was tough, and I had to find solace in places I never envisioned. It was hard, but we made it through,” he writes. “And I’m reliving that pain as I think of your disruption to your senior year.”

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Dier’s viral letter goes on to offer support and advice, along with an inspiring call to action.

“There is no pandemic strong enough to silence you or dent the passion of your generation,” he concludes. “Keep your head up and keep fighting. Our country needs you because you provide hope for our future. This year may not be what you envisioned, but I’m eager to see what you do with it.”