With COVID-19 vaccine distributions have been in full swing for part of the Florida population, teachers felt excluded. As the frontline workers of the classroom, they were not being included in the distribution of vaccinations unless they were over the age of 50, as per Governor Ron DeSantis’s orders.
CCHS staff have been attentively watching the news in anticipation of their opportunity to become vaccinated. As soon as they heard President Biden’s speech, they headed online to book their appointments.
“My dad was watching President Biden speaking and texted me when he said he wanted all teachers to get vaccinated in March. I couldn’t believe it, I was so happy,” social studies teacher Bradley Berke said. “I made appointments for both my wife and I (she is also a teacher) and sent out an email to all staff here at Cooper to let them know to get on and make an appointment [as soon as possible]. Dozens of teachers here were able to make their appointments that morning; we’re all very excited to have this opportunity now.”
“Dozens of teachers here were able to make their appointments that morning; we’re all very excited to have this opportunity now.”Social studies teacher Bradley Berke
Because of Berke’s email, other teachers became aware of appointment availability and immediately booked their vaccination appointments. Teachers received either the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine or the Moderna vaccine.
CCHS teachers headed to various locations in both Broward County and Miami-Dade County to receive their COVID-19 shots. Waiting in line was a memorable moment, as many educators from the South Florida region were there as well, all overwhelmed with excitement about their long-anticipated vaccines.
“I went to CVS during my appointment time and waited in multiple lines. Once I was in the final line to get the shot, everyone waiting in line had their school shirts on,” math teacher Misogi Abe said. “There were all teachers waiting on a Friday night to get their shots.”
Although many did not feel any pain while getting the shot initially, there were a few side effects including headaches, dizziness, nausea and most notably, arm soreness.
“I was vaccinated at Publix during my planning period and [I] came back to school before eighth hour.”TV production teacher and Cowboy Television (CTV) sponsor Alfredo Pichardo
“I was vaccinated at Publix during my planning period and [I] came back to school before eighth hour,” TV production teacher and Cowboy Television (CTV) sponsor Alfredo Pichardo said. “[It was] not painful at first, but the next day [I had a] very sore arm. I had mobility, but it hurt as if someone punched you in the arm several times. It went completely away by the second day.”
In January, all Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) staff members were required to return to the classroom regardless of personal health concerns that could comprise their safety. For the first semester, select teachers were granted accommodations to work from home based on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), but these accommodations were removed at the start of the second semester.
“We have been back, in person and [without] ADA specification; nobody can stay home, everything has to be from the classroom,” social studies teacher Peggy Wilfong said. “So if you are going to make those requirements of teachers, then you need to provide teachers with proper immunization so that they can be in a safe environment. I think by vaccinating the teachers, you now are affording that opportunity. There’s never a guarantee at this point, but we can feel better.”
When Governor DeSantis did not prioritize teachers for the vaccines, many were upset. CCHS teachers felt that this decision was inconsiderate of the hard work they have been displaying in the classroom with their safety on the line.
“We’re not frontline hospital workers, but we are frontline classroom [educators] and it just didn’t feel right to me that we were not up there or important enough to be on the list.”Social studies teacher Peggy Wilfong
“We’re not frontline hospital workers, but we are frontline classroom [educators] and it just didn’t feel right to me that we were not up there or important enough to be on the list,” Wilfong said.
For many teachers, though, the vaccine distribution feels like a relief—a long and eagerly anticipated necessity that they have been hoping for. Educators who already received their first doses are ready for their second and for the comfort of knowing that they are one step closer to normalcy.
“I feel it is important for educators to have the option to be vaccinated since by the nature of our jobs we are around many people every day thus increasing our likelihood of exposure,” exceptional student education (ESE) support facilitator Heidi Dermer said. “Even though teaching online had been necessary considering the circumstances, it is not an ideal way to engage in the activities of teaching and learning. I feel the connections teachers and students make on campus are a key component to the school experience and look forward to when it is safe to resume to more traditional methods.”
All photos courtesy of those pictured
Photo courtesy of Laurie Kraus