Dear Governor Scott:

I am a retired special-education teacher substituting at Northwest Primary School in Rutland. I have been doing so for 2 years and live close by in the same neighborhood. This substitute work with kindergarten, first- and second-grade children during the COVID-19 pandemic has been very challenging and eye opening for me.

Children at Northwest thrive with smaller class sizes. Most children attend daily and others are learning remotely. That children are on a stable, regular schedule is fundamental to their learning and growing. All day long, children receive individualized personal instruction from teachers, paraeducators and staff who love these kids with endless, tender nurturing. Young children become frustrated with the burden of wearing a mask. Staff show great patience with reminders masks keep them safe from becoming sick. One of my duties is helping children finish their daily work and organize their backpacks and desks which help minimize stress and meltdowns. Being this close to provide immediate attention is very difficult with 3-6 feet distancing and almost impossible sometimes with young children. The added burden of taking temperatures, contact tracing, handwashing and surface cleaning all day long contribute to the extra COVID-19 demands on teachers during this pandemic.

Teachers have taken on many extra responsibilities not unlike health care workers. It was a great relief to know teacher pension talks have been taken off the table for now. This gigantic additional stress just puts more burden on teachers, already overworked with COVID-19. Teachers are doing more than ever as essential workers, and that they are being called upon to sacrifice even more is a sign of just how little teachers are valued for their foundational work. Teachers are the glue that hold our communities together, and do not deserve to be penalized for the pension debacle.

Northwest parents can rest assured knowing their children are safe and cared for. The school principal, Loren Pepe, is always cheerful and available. Her timely interventions with the children, whom she knows so well and respects, exemplify the love and concern here. I feel a sense of belonging at this school whose staff has shown me how much kindness we possess. I am proud of my neighborhood school, and it has been an honor to work with all the dedicated individuals who are a glowing testimony to the teaching profession.

Marilyn Griffith lives in Rutland.

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