Letter: Protect the health of teachers and students

By | November 15, 2020

Dear Governor-elect Spencer Cox,

I voted for you as a Democrat because of the endorsement from my union, the Utah Education Association, that you will help education.

I began my 20-year career standing proudly saying the pledge of allegiance on Sept. 12, 2001, and again as we hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics wherein a worldwide connection to humanity similar to now. I have instructed students to hide from an active shooter and how to calmly flee from a fire. I have held students’ fears waiting to know if their families are going to be deported. I have heard students’ fears and tears on drug abuse, family abuse, pregnancies, suicides and gangs. And for the first time, I have looked into their eyes above masked faces, eager to learn at school, with a glimmer of fear I have not seen before.

We come from the knowledge that students need to be in classrooms. But it is fundamental that those classrooms are supplied with healthy, supported, strong and qualified teachers. The message has been that we teachers are essential and must report to school. And we reported. And we worked twice as hard in dual modalities. And then we got sick. We have lost grandparents, parents and teachers — please don’t wait until we have to say students.

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Please listen to UEA’s plea for distance learning through December. We have learned how to teach distance learners in diverse and unique ways for each of our disciplines. Our fellow teachers in Salt Lake School District, as well as many other states across the union, have stayed distant since March and are reaching learning goals successfully. I support the UEA’s plea to our newly elected governor to stop risking teachers’ lives. We can teach online, but we cannot teach from our graves.

Paige Walker Ehler, Salt Lake City

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