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Teachers are essential workers and must return to school

As a teacher and I parent, I can see both sides of the argument about returning to in-person learning in Aurora Public Schools and other districts. This month, APS began phasing in a hybrid learning model, where groups of students attend in-person school every other week, for four days.

While schools and teachers have learned a lot during the many months of remote learning, and this method is getting better results now than at any other point in the pandemic, too many students are still falling behind in a remote learning setting. Moving to hybrid is an improvement, but because it still relies on remote instruction, and because it creates incredible time demands for educators, I don’t believe this model will be successful in the long term.

In-person school is both easier and more effective for teachers as well as well as students. Having your students there in front of you allows you to focus exclusively on their learning. The distractions of home and bureaucratic interruptions fade away when you are working with your students.

Based on my school’s efforts to align programming with the rest of the district and respond to the needs of the community, I will be returning to teaching in-person, at least some of the time. And I am fine with that.

I do understand the concern of some teachers, and in fact I struggle with the concern of my own health and that of my family every day, yet I believe that in-person learning is better for most Aurora students and families.

When I think about all of the workers deemed essential, those in grocery stores, medical settings, and public safety among them, what I believe they have in common is a commitment to serving the communities in which they live. Teachers have perhaps an even greater commitment to our community in that we are responsible for preparing the next generation for the future. That’s why ultimately, I believe we are essential and have to take the risk of returning fully in person.

As teachers, we must ask ourselves this question: Why did we sign up for this profession, if not to perform an essential task? How can we in good conscience decide it is OK for us to work remotely when these other workers are going in person?

I look around at all the private schools that are doing in-person school. I have not heard many stories about a lot of teachers falling ill. I look at Mike Miles, who runs the Third Future charter schools, including one in Aurora. That school has been doing in-person school all year with great success for students and while keeping his staff safe.

The bottom line is that we, as educators, should not be at odds with our parents, who are demanding in-person school. In fact, educators should follow the emerging scientific consensus about the health of students and the risks to adults and be at the forefront of the movement to return to fully in-person school. Until we reopen our schools, students and parents will be placed in impossible situations, and our economy will remain stuck in the mud.

Anne Keke
Dr. Anne Keke is a Native of Cote d’Ivoire, now a U.S. citizen living in Aurora, Colorado since 2001 with her family. From 2010 to 2012, she worked with the District Attorney's Office in the 18th Judicial District in Littleton, Colorado, and the Arapahoe County Juvenile Probation Department. During this time, she worked with both juveniles and adults. Presently, she holds the position of instructor of languages with the Colorado Early Colleges and holds the position of Restorative Justice Coordinator. After teaching, she utilizes the rest of her time is to ensure strong relationships between students and instructors, between administrators and instructors, and between instructor and instructor. Dr. Keke holds a B.A. in Criminal Justice from the University of Colorado Denver and a master’s degree in Criminal Justice from Colorado Technical University. In 2019 she received a Doctorate (D.M) in Management with a Minor in Criminal Justice from Colorado Technical University Aurora, CO. In her free time, Dr. Keke likes to explore the mountains and dedicates most of her time to her family.

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