She scrambled to set up virtual lessons for her fifth-grade language arts students in the spring. By fall, she was excited about returning to the classroom, but on just her second day back she became so concerned at the conditions in her Houston school that she took part in a sick-out with other teachers.
Now, she wants the vaccine against Covid-19 to be prioritized for her and all other teachers to keep them safe at their schools.
“I’m all for teachers being put on a higher list because we are around so many,” she told CNN.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said getting children back into school and staying there would be one of his key goals when he becomes chief medical adviser to the incoming administration.
Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put teachers in the second tier of vaccine recipients, recommending they should be vaccinated along with other frontline essential workers like grocery store staff and police officers, once healthcare personnel and residents of long-term care facilities are protected.
But it’s up to individual states to make their own priorities, so while some like California are following CDC guidance, it is not mandatory.
Alarm at deaths of teachers
But teachers have been infected and some have died.
“I’m walking into a room where I actually don’t really know what I’m breathing in,” she said. “A lot of our schools have really, they’re very old and … their AC units are very, very old.”
Gill says she knows people who are leaving the profession. She is stressed but she’s doing her best to let that go and come to terms with the situation until she can be vaccinated and feel safer.
For now though, she’s using some of the same protective techniques used by frontline medical staff.
“Before I go to my boyfriend’s house, I’ll change my clothes and make sure that I’ll take a shower and stuff because I feel like I might be bringing something to the people that I care about,” she said.