CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) – It’s not uncommon for teachers to go above and beyond for their students.
“I love working with kids. I love the teaching and learning process. I love figuring out where a kid is, what their present level is, and taking them to where they need to be. And watching them kind of celebrate that success,” Kim Tate, a 5th grade teacher for Champaign School District, said.
Tate is one of those teachers, but recently she said it’s been hard.
“I will say, this has been bar none, the worst, the worst, the worst week that I’ve ever spent in Unit 4 schools, in over 15 years. The worst,” she said.
That’s the feeling for a lot of teachers in a lot of schools in the Champaign School District, and Tate said it’s not the kids, and it’s not the parents. She said the kids and parents are trying so hard to learn and help their kids get to school every day.
She said there are so many things educators are dealing with right now, and they have so much on their plate. Like having to write two or three extra lesson plans for their students who are in quarantine.
Skipping their lunch break to help teach a different class if a substitute couldn’t be found for the day and that teacher is in quarantine, or staying after to help clean if janitorial staff is out sick.
Tate said one day she stayed after school 40 minutes to mop her classroom floor that hadn’t been cleaned for weeks because janitors were out sick.
“No one has complained. We’ve done it because one, the kids have to be in, and the kids noticed. The next day when they walked in the classroom, they said, Miss Tate, the floor’s clean, and I said it is. I cleaned it so that we could have a nice clean floor. And it seems like a simple thing, but they deserve to work in a clean environment,” she said.
Tate said it’s not the fault of the staff or administration of each school. She said the district just doesn’t seem to have a plan.
“If you’re sick, you can’t come to work, but we have no plan for when people cannot show up to work. And the plan cannot be teachers make it work, and that’s what it is now,” she said.
But Tate and leaders with the Champaign Federation of Teachers said educators in the district feel like they’re in survival mode.
“So, we would like the people who are supposed to be in this with us, the people that are supposed to be governing, and representing our community, our family, and our students, and ensuring that they are whole, they think creatively about what we can do,” she said. “To at least lessen this burden. We’re not saying you raise the burden. We understand COVID is going to be here for a while. We have got to figure out how to manage the work with it.”
We did reach out to the school district for a comment on this. They gave us a written statement that said…
Despite the obstacles our educators are facing, they continue to go above and beyond to do the amazing work that is benefiting our students and keeping school buildings open. Like school districts across the nation, we are dealing with a lack of human capital. We are addressing staff shortages the best way we can, and until we can fill those open positions, District-level administrators, administrative assistants, teachers, support staff, and other Unit 4 employees are pitching in to ensure safe learning environments for our students. We are extremely proud of our dedicated staff.Stacey Moore, Chief Communications Officer
Unit 4 continues to provide the necessary PPE to protect our staff and students, including masks, face shields, and sanitizer. If an employee needs additional PPE, they can contact their supervisor for assistance.
Educators are asking for help and a plan from the board and the district for some things, like if an entire janitorial staff is quarantined. Tate said teachers were collecting and taking out the trash because it had been piling up, but she said teachers have so much on their plate already that they need help in those areas. She said they can’t continue working like this for another 2, 3 or 4 months.
“How often are we supposed to do this? Is this gonna become a regular thing? It feels like it’s becoming the norm,” Tate said. “So, that’s why you have a lot of teachers who are saying, you know what, yeah, no more.”
Several people in the school district are worried about what schools will look like if things continue this way. Tate said already they have lost a number of teachers.
“I feel like we’re in survival mode, and this idea that we will just keep throwing more and more and more on the teachers. So, we’ve seen in our building, three people say, ‘I’m sorry, I’m unable to do this.’ And I’m afraid that there will be more,” she said. “I’ve never seen this many people just say ‘I can’t do it anymore. I’m done. I have no idea what I will do financially, but my parents will help me, we’ll pull together as a family. And it’s better to do that than to continue to come into this place of employment.’ That’s a problem,” she said.
Tate said she feels like teachers, staff, and parents should be at the table when plans are made.
Several parents plan to attend the next school board meeting and show support to the teachers and staff in the school district.