OPINION: Teachers need to be prioritized


Hailey Stessman

In conjunction with the Nebraska State Education Association’s pleas, the state needs to adjust its plan and prioritize teachers to receive the COVID vaccine. Photo courtesy of unsplash.com

As of this past week, all three of my grandparents have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine. Throughout the course of the pandemic, my worries were rooted in the fear that my grandparents, all over the age of seventy, would contract the virus and be at risk of succumbing to the worst possible outcomes. But with two injections and sore arms, a little bit of hope unfurled within me.

Yet, it could still not shake the fear that I have for my friends, family members and co-workers who attend work on a daily basis to support themselves, particularly for those working in schools.

One of my dear friends who is a teacher in Colorado received her first dose of the vaccine early this week. It was comforting to know that she would feel safer around her students, something all teachers should feel when teaching their students. Unfortunately for teachers in Nebraska, they must continue to wait for the day when their health and the health of their students can be safeguarded by order of the state.

The Nebraska State Education Association (NSEA), the Nebraska union for PreK-12 public school teachers, urged Gov. Pete Ricketts to prioritize state educators to receive the COVID vaccine, particularly those with preexisting health conditions and aged sixty five or older. Currently, educators are placed at the bottom of the Phase 1B grid, following utility workers and homeless shelter and corrections staff.

While I do believe that the state is paying necessary attention to important infrastructure sectors such as utilities, it is crucial to realize educators play a key role in maintaining the foundation of the state.

In response to the letter sent by the NSEA, Ricketts reemphasized his plan to focus on the sixty five and older population along with the fact that any excess vaccines can fall to other priority groups.

Teachers are the backbone of this country, carrying the role and responsibility of preparing the next generations to take control of their futures. Especially in the current climate of our world, school is the only outlet where students of all ages can foster conversations and thoughts in a safe space. In schools that continue to meet in person, the risk is even higher.

No one could have expected that we would be entering the new decade in the midst of a pandemic; similar to how new teachers did not expect to be spending their first year of teaching through a web camera.

Our governor needs to realize the value educators have in our communities. If Nebraska takes pride in its educational system and cares about the future of its students, teachers need to be in line to receive the vaccine sooner rather than later.

If we lose our teachers, then what?