I am a fifth-grade teacher with 25 years of the elementary school experience. Currently, I teach at a rural school in Gila Bend, Arizona. 

There’s something to be said about being part of a small community. There is heart.  There is a sense of safety and caring for one another. Last year, when a devastating flood destroyed people’s homes and several students lost family members, the community came together in the blink of an eye to provide shelter, food, and other help for the affected families. This was a demonstration of the level of caring that exists within the Gila Bend community.

Our small community can also protect one another from Covid. 

Working with students in close proximity every day puts me at risk of contracting Covid. Even though I encourage my students to sanitize, wipe down their desks, cover their sneezes, and wash their hands frequently while at school, I do not know if similar precautions are taken at home. I do what I can to keep this illness at bay for the sake of my students, my family, and myself. 

Nevertheless, most of my students have been exposed to or have contracted Covid. Now that we are back to in-person learning, Covid has kept them out of school for days or even weeks. They are missing out on important academic instruction. It is evident through test scores that students were already falling behind because of remote learning. We need to get back on track, making sure the students and their families are staying healthy.  

With Covid vaccines now available for everyone 6 months and up, it is time to take charge of this situation as best as we can, for our students and our community. 

Research has shown that getting vaccinated against Covid helps to protect against severe illness, hospitalization, and death, and to slow the spread of the virus

Naturally, people have questions about vaccines—including my students. As a teacher, I help them find reliable information, and I encourage them to do their own research. I also encourage them to talk to doctors about getting vaccinated. I tell them that doctors are the ones that help us stay healthy; they are the ones we trust with our lives!

We have lost too many people to Covid in our small rural community. What if we could have done something to save their lives? The answer for those who have lost a loved one is, undoubtedly, we would! It is time to get vaccinated and keep our families, communities, and schools healthy.  

Find free Covid vaccines near you at vaccines.gov.


Erika Sanchez is a fifth-grade teacher with 25 years of the elementary school experience. Currently, she teaches at a rural school in Gila Bend, Arizona. 

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