Educators to share continued struggles of teaching, learning during pandemic
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ROCHESTER, Minnesota. Oct. 15, 2021 — Rochester paraprofessionals and teachers will be joined by Education Minnesota President Denise Specht on Monday afternoon to share stories of educating during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The first in a series of media events the state educators’ union is calling “At a breaking point: Educating during COVID-19,” Rochester educators will discuss what it is like to work in schools when more than 80 paraprofessional positions remain unfilled.
Specht and educators will be gathering at Century High School at 4:45 p.m. Monday, Oct. 18 to discuss these issues with the media. Speakers will be stationed apart, at safe distances, and available to each share their stories and answer questions from reporters. A formal presentation will not take place.
COVID-19 didn’t create these issues and others facing Minnesota educators, but it did shine a brighter light on them. Education Minnesota plans to continue these media events around the state through the fall and winter.
“This doesn’t mean that our students are not getting the high-quality education and services they deserve,” said Shannon Barrett, president of the Rochester Paraprofessionals Association. “It means our teachers and our paras are working extremely hard to cover and catch up on paperwork after school. It means paras are covering positions they were not hired or trained to do and this is unsustainable.”
Specht says this is a problem in school districts across the state, and is calling on district leaders to use their financial resources to solve it.
“Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, education support professionals weren’t given the respect or pay they deserve,” said Specht. “Now, districts in Minnesota have $13 billion in federal funding to help pay our educators a full-time, living wage so we can attract and retain people who want to do this work and care about our students.”
Rochester received almost $16 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) from the American Rescue Plan bill passed in March.
Education support professionals, often the educators who were in school buildings throughout the pandemic, are also being discussed as potential recipients of the Minnesota Legislature’s $250 million in frontline worker pay.
WHAT: Media availability with Education Minnesota President Denise Specht, Rochester paraprofessionals and teachers, including 2021 Minnesota Teacher of the Year Natalia Benjamin.
Speakers will be stationed apart, at safe distances, and available to each share their stories and answer questions from reporters. A formal presentation will not take place.
WHEN: Monday, Oct. 18, 4:45 p.m.
WHERE: Century High School front entrance, 2525 Viola Road NE, Rochester, MN 55906.
About Education Minnesota
Education Minnesota is the voice for professional educators and students. Education Minnesota’s members include teachers and education support professionals in Minnesota’s public school districts, faculty members at Minnesota’s community and technical colleges and University of Minnesota campuses in Duluth and Crookston, retired educators and student teachers. Education Minnesota is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and AFL-CIO.