SALEM, Va. – Our in-depth coverage on reopening schools continues as we sit down with Virginia’s teacher of the year. The Salem High School teacher shared her views on teachers having a voice in reopening schools and why she’s worried about kids this fall.
“It’s going to be an interesting school year, different than anything we’ve ever done before,” said Andrea Johnson who is a high school English teacher in Salem, mother of two and this year’s Virginia teacher of the year. “What I imagined this year to be and what has turned out to be has been entirely different. I will tell you at first there was mourning. What I thought I was going to experience and some of the celebratory parts of being teacher of the year disappeared and that made me sad. Then all of these amazing opportunities came forward for me to be an advocate.”
She was invited to be on several workgroups for reopening Virginia schools.
“Teacher voices need to be at the table. There needs to be a practicing teacher who can say, ‘But consider this or let me tell you what it looks like in a classroom actually,‘” said Johnson. “To be at the table with education administrators from all over the state and have a teacher’s voice there was amazing. Now that I reflect back that wasn’t an opportunity that I expected but has been more meaningful that anything that would have been without the pandemic.”
But she believes not all teachers are being listened to.
“Teachers have made their voices loud and clear in large school systems,” said Johnson.
Fairfax County and the greater Richmond area are spending the first nine weeks online. Johnson says teacher groups and the Virginia Education Association helped lobby for those large areas to keep the teachers safe.