Across America our teachers are being forced to be on the front lines of the pandemic. Rachel Baucom is a first-grade public school teacher in Albuquerque New Mexico. Rachel is very concerned about returning to the classroom and being able to ensure safety, for her kids, their families, and for herself and her family—the entire community. She is a woman who takes her vocation to heart and is going above and beyond the call of duty to keep her students and families safe.
I immersed myself in research to understand what it means to reopen the schools during the pandemic. Bottom line: The Trump administration ordered the schools to reopen so parents would return to work, thereby rebooting the economy. To make schools comply, Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos threatened to cut funding if schools did not reopen.
Teachers don’t make much money as it is and many schools are operating with skeleton staffs and tight budgets. Schools are being forced to buy new programs for virtual instruction, making sure all of the kids have tablets at home, and have someone showing them how to use them. Then there are all of the materials needed to ensure safety, from Plexiglas barriers to gallon jugs of hand sanitizer, larger classroom space, and the installation of air ducts and HVAC to provide adequate ventilation. With all of the changes needed to make safer environments for teachers, children and their families, the money isn’t forthcoming from the federal government. The financial burden has been placed squarely on state and local governments that are already strapped for cash. No federal funds are being provided to help schools open safely.
Our mission is to share the stories of the real heroes in our culture. The people who have the courage to do things so amazing that they also inspire us to do good work in the world. Rachel Baucom is woman of courage and an authentic voice of the pandemic. This month we also profiled an unusual library, the Ernie Pyle Library in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Ernie Pyle was a Pulitzer Prize winning Journalist who covered stories about soldiers during World War II. Ernie Pyle is legendary for putting a human face on the grit and raw honesty of the young men who served our country. In the same manner that Rachel Baucom is a voice for teachers, Ernie Pyle was the voice of the American Soldier during World War II. Remember to have courage. Take care and stay safe! –Patricia Vaccarino