Op-Ed: A teacher’s perspective on Shelton public school’s vaccine clinic

Kimberly Atkinson, kindergarten teacher at Booth Hill School, correcting a student's SEESAW assignment for the day.

Kimberly Atkinson, kindergarten teacher at Booth Hill School, correcting a student's SEESAW assignment for the day.

Contributed photo

Originally, I did not want to get the COVID vaccine. My personality is such that I do not trust, just because society tells me to. I am very skeptical and cautious in nature and with so many unknowns, I was instinctively leery in the beginning.

Having taught for almost 20 years now and seeing first-hand the power of herd-immunity, I decided to wait patiently and do my part to keep myself and others safe through various mitigation strategies such as hand washing, distancing and mask wearing. When the initial sign up for the district came along, I was not on it. However, as an educator, it is my job to learn and use that learning to make an informed decision, so I used the past few months reading and listening to gain a better understanding of how the vaccine works.

The turning point in mind was when I learned that herd immunity could be achieved much quicker when more people are vaccinated, and with a lot less people having to suffer along the way. I have always wanted to be a part of the solution, not the problem, so I threw my worries about the unknowns into God’s hands and decided to go for it.

The Shelton School District should be commended on their ability to turn what could have been a daunting process into a manageable masterpiece. Educators were due to begin signing up for vaccines on March 1, per the governor’s order. Schools were all abuzz about how teachers were going to have to stay up really late to click that button at 12:01 a.m. on March 1 and secure a spot. Then out of the blue, the Shelton Public School staff received a miraculous email.

Through the leadership of our Superintendent, Ken Saranich, Human Resources Head Carole Pannozzo and Head COVID Nurse Adrianna Collins, and their teams, a collaboration took place with Shelton’s EMS which brought a vaccine clinic to us. The amazing part is that this all happened in less than three days from the email reminding staff to sign up on March 1 to the email indicating that the district was switching gears to offer an inclusive vaccination clinic.

Our community really came together for us and for that I am truly grateful. The clinic was very well organized and everything we needed to know was clearly communicated before and during the process. The way volunteers from our school system and the town came together to make it all happen exemplified what everyone keeps saying, “We are in this together.” As nervous as I was about getting the vaccine, I felt supported by my colleagues and the ease of the process and am looking forward to finishing the job with shot No. 2.

While I am still worried about the future of the vaccine, receiving the shot has helped me to feel that I am doing my part right now toward helping the problem. It does not mean that I can throw caution to the wind now. I have the lives of 18 five-year olds counting on me to keep them safe. However, being a part of the vaccination clinic helps us get one step closer to keeping our students and colleagues safer and one step closer to resuming full-time in-person student learning.

I will not use the words “return to normal” because I feel that we have learned so much as a result of this crisis that no longer aligns with the “old normal.” Rather, I live on the hope that we will resume full in-person learning and use the lessons of the crisis to create an educational environment that provides for all students’ needs, academically and emotionally. What this means for everyone’s social-emotional and academic progress cannot be put into words … it is invaluable.

Kimberly Atkinson is a kindergarten teacher at Booth Hill School.