Vaccinated Shelton teacher helps bring relief to colleagues

STEM teacher and part time EMT Rob Swercewski helped in the vaccination of his colleagues during the recent COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Shelton Intermediate School on Monday.

STEM teacher and part time EMT Rob Swercewski helped in the vaccination of his colleagues during the recent COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Shelton Intermediate School on Monday.

Brian A. Pounds / Hearst Connecticut Media

SHELTON - Robert Swercewski was one of hundreds of school staff taking his place at the district’s special vaccine clinic for educators, but unlike his coworkers, he was on the other side of the syringe.

Swercewski, a Shelton Intermediate School teacher, is also a volunteer with Beacon Hose Co. 1 EMS. He received his vaccinations in December and offered his skills to the clinic, which was run under the direction of the Naugatuck Valley Health District and Griffin Hospital at the intermediate school.

They took him up on the offer.

The experience, he said, was “something truly special.

“It was nice to see coworkers that, in some cases, we had not seen in over a year,” Swercewski said. “Several employees became visibly emotional as they sat for their vaccine … there were many sighs of relief as well as an occasional tear for what may prove to be the first true step toward a return to normalcy.”

More than 550 school staff — including teachers, cafeteria workers, bus drivers and others — received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine March 6 with the second to be administered on March 27. With so many staff inoculated, the district now is planning for a full in-person return to classes.

Swercewski said he understands what his peers were going through as they bared their shoulders for their first shot.

"After having been vaccinated, I did have a feeling of relief,” Swercewski said in describing his feelings are receiving the doses three months ago.

“As a volunteer EMT in a small town, I certainly didn’t have the level of exposure to the virus as many healthcare providers did across our country or even here in Shelton,” he said. “However, on occasion, I did have to care for patients that were COVID positive and having been vaccinated did reduce that stress level.”

As for the return to school, his experience with the virus along with the vaccine, “without a doubt, lessened my worries.

“The concerns were focused on those students and staff that were not yet vaccinated and whether or not a return to school would promote viral spread,” Swercewski said. “As it turned out, our staff did a great job helping students adhere to the mask and distancing rules making for a safe return.

"I would like to thank everyone in our district that has worked so hard work during the last year,” he said. “It has not been easy and certainly not what anyone could have imagined.”

The Connecticut Department of Public Health developed the training Swercewski took for administering the vaccine. It consisted of online coursework and an assessment followed by in-person skills practice.

Swercewski praised the district’s nursing staff - all of whom, led by head nurse and district COVID liaison Adrianna Collins, assisted at the clinic on Saturday.

“They have had the responsibility of managing the health and safety of our students and staff including many hours of contact tracing. A job that brought them far more grief than they deserve. So, to our nurses, thank you,” he said.

Swercewski teaches an elective course with its roots in hands-on collaborative problem solving, he said.

While the use of computers has always played a central role in his work and that of his students, he said the safety measures that have been set in place forced a pivot to fully digital instruction.

“This shift forced me to explore avenues of instruction I would not have otherwise, bringing lessons and resources that will become a permanent part of the course,” he said. “Recognizing those benefits, I still can’t wait to get my students back to working with their hands, in groups, side by side.”