CTA California Educator Magazine Highlights the Realities of Teaching During a Pandemic
California Educators Share Stories of Returning To In-Person Instruction, Helping With Vaccinations, and Facing the Unique Pressures Forcing Some Female Educators Out of the Profession
BURLINGAME – The February/March issue of the California Educator, the award-winning official publication of the 310,000-member California Teachers Association, lifts the voices and shares the experiences of educators who are on the front line of teaching students during the COVID-19 pandemic. We check in on teachers across California who are navigating virtual, hybrid, in-person, and concurrent instruction; a school nurse who volunteers to vaccinate members of the community; and female educators forced to juggle teaching their students and taking care of their own children, parents, and families.
“I am so proud of all the work California’s educators are doing. They have been extremely vulnerable in sharing their experiences, remained resilient in the face of adversity, and stayed vigilant while fighting to keep themselves, their families and their students safe,” said CTA President E. Toby Boyd.
You can find these stories and others by visiting cta.org/educator. Meet our educators and read their stories.
ON HYBRID TEACHING AND RETURNING TO IN-PERSON INSTRUCTION
Tales From the Trenches: Teaching During a Pandemic tells the story of educators who were forced to acclimate to distance learning quickly, without a guidebook, but still found a way to make it work. It highlights what it is really like for educators to return to in-person instruction, with safety still on their minds.
“I wanted to celebrate the students coming back to school. I had a ‘welcome back’ bag at each desk filled with goodies. I am happy being back with my students, but I don’t let myself get too comfortable. Safety is always on my mind,” said Kathy Adair, fourth grade teacher at Trabuco Mesa Elementary School in Rancho Santa Margarita and member of the Saddleback Valley Educators Association.
“I was happy to come back. I missed my students. But it’s stressful when I get phone calls saying a student is being pulled from class to quarantine because someone in their family has COVID. Students and their families have been heavily impacted,” said Jennifer Adolfson, eighth grade math, English and social studies teacher, who instructs students online and in person simultaneously at Sequoia Elementary School. She is a member of the Manteca Educators Association.
ON UNIQUE CHALLENGES FEMALE EDUCATORS FACE
Women Educators Caught in a Bind tells the story of women educators being forced out of the workforce due to COVID-19. They not only hold the responsibility of teaching, but also shoulder the responsibilities of family and child rearing during a time of sickness and economic upheaval. Educators are more than teachers — they are mothers, single mothers, caregivers, and sometimes the sole providers of their families.
“I want to be a role model for my daughter and show her a woman can succeed as much as a man. But being a woman is hard. We have to juggle it all, and the pandemic is stretching us very, very thin,” said Erika Martinez, former president of Liberty Teachers Association, who resigned from her teaching position at Liberty Elementary School in Tulare. With her school on the verge of resuming in-person instruction, Martinez quit her job to protect her 3-year-old daughter, her parents and herself during a pandemic. “It was an agonizing decision,” said Martinez.
“It’s not setting a good example for our students or our children in terms of women taking a hit and being considered expendable. How long will it take to get our jobs back when this is over? Will our jobs be there when this is over?” said Stacey Strong Ortega, who is on leave and has taught first grade for 21 years at Nohl Canyon Elementary School in Anaheim Hills. She is a member of the Orange Unified Education Association.
ON HOW ONE SCHOOL NURSE IS KEEPING HER COMMUNITY SAFE
Dose of Hope: School Nurse Keeps Her Community Safe sheds light on other frontline workers like Shadlie Kensrue, a critical care and trauma nurse prior to her current job at Northwood High School, who is keeping her community safe while waiting for educators’ turn to be vaccinated.
“I have had a lot of guilt that I am not shoulder to shoulder with my intensive care unit colleagues, especially during this last surge that has overwhelmed our hospitals. It has been an honor for me to volunteer my time and my skills to our community during this pandemic,” said Shadlie Kensrue, school nurse and member of the Irvine Teachers Association.
ADDITIONAL STORIES AND ITEMS OF INTEREST
A Voice of Science is a Q&A with infectious disease expert Dr. Grace Lee on California’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout, safety, and the impact for educators.
“The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices sees teachers and educational staff as a critical part of the frontline workforce that is vital for the functioning of our society — for kids, for parents and others. That was the rationale in including educators in Phase 1b who need to be in the workplace to effectively do their jobs. It was a high priority to protect our frontline essential workers.”
In Light at the End of the Tunnel, CTA President E. Toby Boyd explains how CTA is supporting educators in providing the best possible ongoing educational opportunities and resources to students. CTA is also working to ensure that educators can be safe and feel safe when returning to in-person instruction.
“Vaccines alone are not enough to keep us safe. CTA is working to ensure that school districts planning to reopen use a multilayered approach based on science and the recommendations of the experts,” said Boyd.
In Parents, Educators Speak Out: Open Schools Only When Safe, parents from low-income communities and communities of color, and educators who work with their students, express strong reservations about reopening prematurely.
“Our community has been hit very hard by the coronavirus. There has been a lot of heartbreak. People have lost family members, friends, and just this past week we had a father and son die within hours. … So I am here today because I am scared,” said Fresno mother of four Maricela Velasquez. “It’s hard to trust the schools will be able to keep them safe. I certainly don’t trust the parents who are speaking loudly right now about us opening schools for our children to go back. Let me be clear, they don’t speak for me and they don’t speak for my community! I won’t be sending my kids back until it is safe, until the virus infection rates have gone down, until the district has provided resources for all for safety measures, and until the teachers have had the vaccine.”
Maria Osorio, parent from Los Angeles, agreed. “Every day, thousands of people are still getting infected and dying. It’s too much to return under these conditions.”
Watch these parents and others speak at the Feb. 12 virtual news conference.
The 310,000-member California Teachers Association is affiliated with the 3-million-member National Education Association.