Teachers: They’re as essential as everyone else

Aly Wenglarz, Web Content Editor

  When COVID-19 first hit, our country was petrified.  We went into an immediate lockdown as a desperate attempt to minimize the impact of what would soon turn out to be one of the deadliest events in U.S. history.  Though most people put their lives on pause, our country still had to stay running.  We began to realize the importance of grocery clerks, fast food workers, computer programmers and teachers.  All of these and more became essential to making sure that our country would stay afloat during unprecedented times.  

   Teachers have always been a backbone of our country.  They play a monumental role in shaping the minds of future generations.  On March 13, 2020, teachers were told that they would have to come up with a way to provide an essential service in a brand new way.  Teachers have an impossible job. They were now forced to take their classes and redesign them in a completely virtual way.  Some teachers did Google Meets, some did video assignments and others would simply post assignments on Canvas.  No matter what form of synchronous or asynchronous learning teachers decided to try, they were always there to lead and assist students through an unparalleled learning experience.

   I remember having teachers that would post wellness checks to see how we were doing. Teachers get attached to their students, and take on an almost parental role and feeling of responsibility during the school year.  “In loco parentis” is Latin for “in place of the parent”, typically used to describe the impactful role teachers have on their students.  Without seeing their students in-person like they were used to, teachers struggled to maintain the connection they had established earlier in the year.  It now became almost impossible to connect and learn through a screen.

   So now that we’re back in-person, why aren’t we protecting our teachers?  Teachers were forced to get their own protection, whether it was a mask or a poly-glass divider on their desk.  Teachers are just as essential as a grocery store clerk.  Teachers are exposed to hundreds of students each day and are offered little-to-no protection from what’s proving to be one of the worst pandemics in U.S. history.  

   Take for example, Donna Spivak from Grimmer Middle School.  I had Mrs. Spivak as one of my fifth grade teachers, and she stands out from the rest.  She deeply cares about each and every individual student, and works tirelessly to help students realize and reach their full potential as they begin their academic careers.  She claims that the “essential worker” label is just that.  A label.  An empty, meaningless label.

   According to a Mother Jones story, last week in Georgia, one county decided to give permission for teachers to be vaccinated at the same time as senior citizens.  Unfortunately, this county is now facing punishment from the Georgia Department of Public Health, as they have suspended vaccine shipments.  Although teachers are not technically included in any designated vaccination group, many are still calling vaccination sites in an attempt to get the vaccine.

   Spivak called and explained that she and her husband were both at risk.  The woman she spoke to agreed and signed her up for a vaccine appointment.  However, when she arrived at the site, she was turned away because she was told that she’s a teacher, and teachers are not currently getting the vaccine.

   If teachers are essential workers, why aren’t we acting like it? Why are they being turned away when they ask for basic protection?  COVID-19 is proving to be one of the deadliest viruses in history, with 2.35 million deaths worldwide, around 474 thousand deaths and 12 thousands deaths in our county alone.  Teachers and other faculty should be allowed to get the vaccine.  It’s time that we start treating teachers the way they deserve to be treated.  They’ve always been essential to the foundation of our education system and country, but since COVID-19 hit, they’ve taken on a multitude of new roles and responsibilities as quickly as they can.  “Essential worker” can no longer be a label to help people feel better about not getting hazard pay, minimal protection and constant exposure to the virus.  It’s time that essential workers are treated as essential.