Part 16

In a New Classroom, Todd Larche Slowly Finds the Way

Todd Larche is getting his bearings in his new job at the DC Alternative Learning Academy, a school for emotionally disturbed youths.
Todd Larche is getting his bearings in his new job at the DC Alternative Learning Academy, a school for emotionally disturbed youths. (By Sarah L. Voisin -- The Washington Post)

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By Lonnae O'Neal Parker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 9, 2005

One in a series chronicling the Larches of New Orleans as they rebuild their lives in the Washington area

One of the hardest things for Todd Larche at his brand-new teaching job has turned out to be the commute home.

Every afternoon since starting work last Wednesday at a Southeast Washington school, he's ended up near Baltimore before finding his way back to his in-laws' home in Silver Spring.

He's spent hours in traffic and it's left him too tired for family time with 5-year-old daughter Kristen, newborn son Todd Jr. or wife Michele.

But then it's been a season of tough adjustments for the Larche family.

As with everything since Hurricane Katrina, it's just going to take time for Todd to find his way. And while the drive is tricky, the job has other challenges as well.

For eight years, Todd was an elementary special education teacher in New Orleans. He was used to young kids, a short commute and, of course, students who didn't call him everything but a child of God.

On his first day at the DC Alternative Learning Academy, a high school for 62 kids who've been labeled emotionally disturbed, the students started needling him. One girl joked, he says, "that New Orleans was [expletive] up. I told her, 'That's inappropriate, we shouldn't talk like that, we should be considerate of other people's feelings.' "

She continued cursing at him and a counselor took her from the room, Todd recalls. He sighs. "You have to be patient. You can't have thin skin," he says. Still, he's not used to that from a student.

"It's sobering," he says. "The societal woes overrule anything I am going through in terms of Katrina."

He's also adjusting to nearly grown kids. "I'm used to dealing with babies, and while they have problems or even might curse now and then, they are easier to mold and get back in line. . . . There's a difference in terms of patience one has with minors" than with older children, he says.

On Monday afternoon, Todd stood near the school's entrance smoking a cigarette. He started smoking again after the hurricane but quit nearly a month ago. "These jokers got me smoking again," he says, "but I need that break every now and then to step outside and have me a Joe."


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© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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