After almost a year of not being able to see her students in person or her extended family, CHS teacher, Katelyn Long was elated to find out that she was eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
When the pandemic initially started in March, Long, like many others, was fearful of contracting the virus, especially because she has type one diabetes and didn’t know what the effects might be; however, the hardest struggle early on was setting boundaries for herself and her family.
“As soon as March hit, it was like nobody can be around together. And you know, it’s just really sad looking back because you felt like you were so out of control, like there is nothing that you could do about it. I remember that feeling of being terrified to go to the grocery store. You just had to stay inside your house,” Long said.
When the new school year started again in August, Long endured further struggles having to balance her roles as a teacher instructing her students virtually and as a parent to two young children: a three-year-old and a six-year old. Long and her family agonized over the idea of sending their kids back to school.
Long said, “I think the most terrifying part was right when school started again and we didn’t really know what was going to happen. Was it safe to send kids back to school? Was that a big risk to take? So emotionally that was the hardest part for me. Especially because my daughter started kindergarten this year. So for me being a first time kindergarten mom, it was hard for me to imagine that this is what [my daughter’s] first experience of school is going to be like.”
As soon as Long got word of the approved vaccine, she did everything possible to get not only herself, but her parents on a list to get vaccinated.
“I was so pumped to get this vaccine,” Long said. “I would have driven anywhere.”
For Long, one of the most exciting things about getting the vaccine was finally being able to see her students in person.
“I’m really looking forward to being able to be in person with my students again. That was my number one priority in getting the vaccine. I really had all my students in mind when it was happening so that’s probably the thing that I’m most excited to get back to,” Long said.
Many of us have grown accustomed to our new lives working around the pandemic that we forget how much it has truly affected our lives. However, with the implementation of the vaccine, it’s much easier to imagine returning to normalcy.
“When I look back, I think I was so caught up in the moment of taking it day by day that I didn’t tend to notice like, yeah, I really, really miss my friends and having that social connection,” Long said. “And then, when you’re sitting there after getting the vaccine, all I could think about was how much this virus has taken away from us. Just how different life is. And it is emotional when you start thinking about looking back and you think, okay, we’re getting close to the end of this.”
Unlike many others, CHS teacher Daniel Glossenger knew that Coronavirus would have a drastic impact on our lives long before the whole world shut down in March of 2020.
“I can remember telling a few people who I trusted that they needed to go to home improvement stores and buy masks, particular N-95s with filters. And that was in late January of last year,” Glossenger said.
The pandemic took a toll early on in Glossenger’s classes as he began to separate desks and sanitize. While students’ health and safety was of top priority, effectively teaching also became a struggle.
“This has been by far the most difficult year of my teaching career ever. It is painful for me, too because I know how wonderful teaching and learning can be in the school district of Clayton and elsewhere. But to know how far we are from that, it hurts,” Glossenger said.
Glossenger realized the mental anguish going through the pandemic caused on his students and acknowledged that his primary focus was to guide students through this hard time.
Glossenger said, “I won’t say that I gave up on teaching economics, but at the same time, I thought it was more important to make sure that kids knew they had somebody who they could talk to this year. We’ve all gone through those phases.”
Building relationships with students during the pandemic has been a struggle for nearly every teacher, especially with the fact that many teachers don’t know what a large number of their students look or sound like. But for Glossenger along with many other teachers, the rise of the vaccine was also the rise of hope.
“I was elated when I learned that there were multiple vaccines that were successfully coming out,” Glossenger said. “And we learned small details throughout the fall about successful vaccination trials and every little piece of news about that is something that helps me. Elation. Joy. Which are things that have been in such short supply over the last year.”
Not only did Glossenger suffer from the effects of Covid-19 in the classroom, but he was also prevented from seeing extended family as his wife is also a teacher. Together, Glossenger and his wife are exposed to about 600 individuals in a week and didn’t want to risk exposing close friends and family as well. But Glossenger was reassured by the vaccine that he’d be able to interact with students and family soon.
“When the vaccines were being developed, and that third phase of, you know, there might be hope at the end of the tunnel, in the center light at the end of the tunnel. And the sense that there’s a vaccine and humanity will emerge from this. That gave me a little bit of motivation to keep going,” Glossenger said.
It’s difficult for any person to find joy in times like these and Glossenger endured these same struggles. However, as time progresses, it is gradually becoming easier to find things to be happy about.
“I’m usually a very pessimistic person and my colleagues always kind of prepared themselves for me to be like, actually, here’s the doom,” Glossenger said. “But I’m very optimistic. And that’s a weird feeling for me. But I think that our country will grow out of this and that we will get to experience those moments with loved ones again soon.”
More and more adults are getting vaccinated each day, but it’s not often that students are able to get their hands on the Covid-19 vaccine. However, CHS senior Cece Cohen was very fortunate.
Especially as an upperclassmen and oncoming senior, Cohen was worried at the start of the pandemic in March, 2020.
“I was actually pretty nervous. I did take it really seriously. I carried hand sanitizer with me everywhere I went,” Cohen said.
Throughout the entire school year, Cohen has been taking precautions and was ecstatic when she found out she had the opportunity to get vaccinated. Cohen and her family volunteered to pass out forms to people preparing to get vaccinated at Union Station in downtown St. Louis. The site had many extra doses and offered them to those volunteering.
“I’m actually very blessed I was able to get the vaccine especially for my age. I’m very fortunate and very thankful,” Cohen said.
Cohen and her family experience many side effects. Her siblings experienced fevers, chills, and body aches. Luckily Cohen was able to avoid the extreme effects.
“The second dose was pretty rough with the side effects,” Cohen said. “I had horrible migraines even three days after. I was very exhausted and my arm was extremely sore but it was definitely worth it.”
As a senior, Cohen had been stressed about going off to college next year during a pandemic. However, many of her fears were lifted after she got the vaccine.
“I feel like I’m going to feel much more comfortable going to college next year and seeing new people that you don’t know where they’ve been. And you don’t have to worry about seeing this person and not having any idea who they’ve come in contact with or where they’ve been. I’m not as nervous,” Cohen said.
Cohen, like many others, said she feels far more hopeful about the future not just for herself but for our country and world as a whole.
“The fact that I already have it and more and more teachers at CHS are getting vaccinated makes me much more hopeful about the future,” Cohen said. “And even though there are many who haven’t been vaccinated that should be, so many already do have the vaccine and that’s really uplifting.”
Jill Lee, a CHS parent, works at Metro Imaging and consults with many patients on a daily basis. Even when nearly all other stores and offices shut down in March, 2020, Lee and some of her staff continued to show up to treat patients.
“[The pandemic] made me realize that I took a lot of things I did on a daily basis at work for granted. We went from staffing each office with fifteen employees to ten, and went from having fifteen to only three offices open,” Lee said. “It was mentally and physically exhausting every single day making sure that everything was taken care of.”
Lee also frequently encountered patients who came in with Covid-19 symptoms or who had recently tested positive, but she was still willing to treat them if proper measures were taken.
“Honestly, [treating patients with symptoms] didn’t worry me. I really just wanted to get them in and out of our office to make sure they were okay because they weren’t being accepted anywhere else,” Lee said. “A lot of people may not have had Covid but if they had pneumonia or some other infection, they needed to be treated also.”
Though Lee and her staff were willing to treat nearly every patient that came through their doors, having access to the vaccine definitely made the process easier.
“I feel more comfortable at work now than what I ever have because we’re all very cautious. We clean more now than ever and we make sure everything is very sanitized,” Lee said.
As a smaller branch of a large hospital chain, Lee and her staff weren’t expecting to be able to get the vaccine right away. They were elated when they found out.
“It was emotional when they told us that we were going to be part of the first round because I never thought we would,” Lee said. “And so to be a part of something like that, and even if it made me sick, I didn’t care if it would help others.”
Lee acknowledges that life likely won’t ever return to what it was but is still hopeful for a future that doesn’t include Covid-19.
“I’m patiently waiting for others to be able to get vaccinated because I want things to get back to our new normal. We’re never going to go back to our normal lives the way it used to be and there are going to be people who are still going to be fearful,” Lee said. “But every day from here on out I’m hopeful for what’s ahead.”