I head back into the classroom this week. Next week, my kids head back. Two are in elementary, and one is starting middle school.
Like many educators and parents, I have mixed feelings: excitement for a new start, nervousness about the continued spread of the virus, belonging to be part of a profession that is so central to our communities.
Education has always been a central part of my family’s life. I am the fourth generation to teach. My grandfather, like so many of his peers, left school in the eighth grade to farm. He also was a World War II vet, part of the Greatest Generation who grew up during the Great Depression and fought against fascism. But he always yearned for his high school diploma. And at the age of 80, he graduated from high school. It was a dream fulfilled for an old man and his family.
It’s my grandfather I think about as we head back to in-person teaching this week. The 50 young adults I teach at UNI will be wearing face masks and spaced apart, as will I. So will my children next week. They won’t know the countless hours of preparation put in to make it possible. They won’t know the fear and relief their parents feel. They won’t know the sacrifices made by their teachers, bus drivers, janitors, nurses, paras, administrators and school boards to make it happen. But they will know we love them and are doing everything possible so they can live out their dreams.
The future may be uncertain, but my resolve is not. Educators and students, you matter. Your safety and health matter. Your future matters. As for our state leadership, enough playing politics with our kids’ futures, changing rules at the last minute, and short changing our schools. I have skin in the game. That is why education is one of my top priorities for the state house.
That is why I oppose school vouchers that would strip our rural schools of funding. That is why I will work tirelessly to get our schools the resources they need to do the job well.
It’s time to get a teacher in the State House.