'We can't keep this pace' Utah teachers overburdened by demands of school year

Teacher measuring and marking places in the classroom. (File photo: Getty Images)

Just weeks into the school year and Utah teachers say they are barely hanging on, overwhelmed by the burdens of this school year.

Heidi Matthews, the president of the Utah Education Association, said she’s heard countless stories from the teachers she represents. Teachers who are struggling mentally and emotionally.

Matthews says:

We can’t keep this pace."

One of the most challenging burdens is the changing of district plans, sometimes with little notice.

“Many aspect of those plans are not being enforced,” Matthews said.

Teachers counted on certain level of protection that is changing as district move to come back to full sized classrooms. Matthews said there is little to no authority to adhere to social distancing guidelines or the mask mandate put in place by Governor Herbert. The UEA is asking all school district plans be made based on health department expertise.

“The modalities that teachers are being expected to keep up is just simply not possible. It’s not feasible. They can’t keep the pace,” she said.

In many cases, teachers spend a full day in the classroom only to come home to several emails from concerned students and parents struggling with the challenges of online learning. Teachers are often expected to balance educating their students virtually and in-person. Matthews says:

I think wherever you are in the state, if you work in a school you are experiencing a level of pressure and stress and expectation that is beyond anything we have experienced."

The UEA met with Governor Herbert on Tuesday to discuss teachers in need of more support. Their asking for stricter safety measures to ensure teacher safety and to make sure district plans are approved by local health departments.

As case numbers in Utah reached an all time high on Friday, Matthews said it’s up to both state and local communities to support educators.

“We need our communities to be coming together and treating this virus seriously where it’s spiking so that our school can remain open,” Matthews said.