By Nichole Beer
The day I moved out of my classroom for the year, never had I been more aware of what COVID-19 had taken from me. I am the librarian, so hundreds of abandoned borrowed books from students and teachers lined the tops of shelves. The collection bins overflowing with books not finished, just returned. I pulled out a handmade bookmark from a much-loved chapter book, never to be finished.
The tears flowed down my face, tears for words not said, hugs not felt, and good-byes never given. COVID-19, you took away my good-byes to students, along with two months of kind words, encouragement and love I was never able to express to students who often only get these things at school. I know I am not the only one you took these things from.
Another thing COVID-19 took from me was my ability to hide. When you are running around the valley working two teaching jobs, working on political action groups, trying to cook at least a few times a week, doing laundry, feeding the pets, and proofreading your daughter’s graduate school papers, it is easy to hide — from yourself. You just do the work. What I have not been able to hide from myself lately is that I need to teach and interact with students. I need it like I need oxygen, laughter, nourishment and love. I have always known that I love my job. But COVID-19 taught me that I need my job in order to be whole.
COVID-19 also gave us all an opportunity. Nevada elected officials, influencers, community members, parents, educators, and children: You all have power. This is the time to do the right thing, finally. COVID has illustrated the systematic inequalities in our education based on race, socio-economic status and zip codes. This has happened because of decades of underfunding and division among leadership and the rank and file educators in our districts. Join me in contacting your public servants; tell them now is the time to fund education.
Now that I know the power that COVID-19 has over my life, I submit to it. However, COVID, you are going to give me something back. I am not asking. I am demanding that you give me back what I need to be whole. You have the upper hand, but you will give me what I ask for, on behalf of myself as an educator, all the other educators in Nevada, my students, all Nevada students, families and our community.
You will spur lawmakers to fund education to at least the 2018-19 national average of $12,612 per student in the 2020-2021 school year. (In 2018-19, Nevada was funded at just $9,417 per pupil.) Make your voice heard, even if your voice is tiny. I will not let you take one more dollar from education and my students. You have taken enough, now you will give. I demand it, on behalf of all my students, with tiny voices.
Nichole Beer is a Clark County School District elementary teacher librarian and Nevada State College adjunct faculty member.