Credit: WINK News

SWFL teachers say chance at vaccine a game changer

The governor announced all teachers in Florida, no matter age, can sign up with Publix, Walmart, CVS and Walgreens for the coronavirus vaccine.

We spoke to Southwest Florida teachers Thursday who say the opportunity to get vaccinated is a step toward getting back to performing their roles to the best of their abilities after a year of unknowns due to the pandemic.

“In the beginning, it was definitely nerve-racking,” teacher Dian McGowen said.

Many teachers say they were thrown into the classrooms at the beginning of the year without feeling safe.

“I think that was disheartening for a lot of teachers,” McGowen said.

“They’re working with kids, and they put themselves and their family members at risk every day going in and doing what they need to do to help kids,” teacher Terry Kalten said.

McGowen and Kalten are both thankful they are no longer being overlooked at pharmacies in the state that are starting to vaccinate teachers of all ages.

“It shows people are prioritizing teachers,” McGowen said. “That they realize our job is face to face for seven hours a day.”

It might put some parents at ease too.

“Parents will be a little more comfortable to send their kids to school knowing the teachers have been vaccinated, and that it’s safer for us, and we can’t pass it to their kids,” Kalten said.

Teachers are looking forward to feel empowered again to perform their roles to the utmost of their abilities.

“I have days where you can just tell they need a hug, or they need you to wrap your arm around them,” McGowen said. “And you’re just not able to do that now.”

It’s all about making a difference in the classroom for their students.

“Being able to be that teacher that you once were that you’re holding inside because you know you’re not supposed to keep your distance,” McGowen said.

In Lee County, teachers 50 and older are getting their vaccines Friday. They have already been notified.

In Collier County, the school district says it’s working with the department of health and Collier County Emergency Management to give employees additional vaccine opportunities as well.

“So much of teaching is interpersonal,” Kalten said. “It’s being connected to kids, and I think we have lost that, and I think getting vaccinated is going to help bring that back.”

Reporter:Taylor Smith
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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