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March 7, 2021

Many teachers stressed, struggling 1 month into pandemic school year

SALT LAKE CITY — A month into the pandemic school year, many teachers have struggled, especially those juggling online and in-person classes. Yet they remain optimistic.

KSL-TV spoke to several teachers from a variety of school districts about how their first month of school was going.

Some of the words used to describe it include stressed, frustrated, drowning, and frightening.

“This is hard, and anyone who says different is crazy,” said high school teacher Deborah Gatrell.

“(The) emotions and feelings would be ‘survival mode,’” said middle school teacher Carina Whiteside. “Right now, we are just focused on how do we keep ourselves safe? How do we keep our students safe? How do we move from day to day?”

“It is a really stressful year,” said Mandee Cossa. “The constant change has been really hard. It seems like things change on a daily basis.

Cossa has been in education for 17 years, and works with teachers from two elementary schools as a school technology specialist.

Many have felt burned out — just one month into the new school year.

“Yes, I was actually thinking yesterday, ‘Oh we only started school a month ago,’ because it feels much longer,” said Whiteside.

No matter how many years some of these teachers have been doing this, many of them feel like a rookie teacher.

The other challenge, they said, is the unknown. Some districts have stuck to the recommendation from the Utah Department of Health that schools switch to remote learning for two weeks if there are 15 cases at one time in a single school.

Other districts have switched to the percentage of students with the virus to determine whether to shut down the school to in-person learning.

“The 15 recommendation was made by state medical experts, and (some) districts are choosing to ignore it and a lot more people are going to get sick,” said Moss.

“If they meet the health department guideline and the health department recommends they shut down, they need to shut down. (It) shouldn’t even be a discussion about it,” said Gatrell.

Despite the stressful circumstances, there has been incredible resilience and optimism with these teachers, who said they will push through.

“I think I’ll make it. I think we will be OK,” said Whiteside. “Teachers are amazing and incredible, and we adapt and we do what we need to do.”

“We, as teachers, just want our communities to know and our families to know, that we love them and that we are doing everything that we can to have a successful year, despite the circumstances,” said Cossa.

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