JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Duval County students will be starting school Aug. 20, but teachers will be back at work before that to get ready for students’ arrival.
While there’s always first day of school jitters, the coronavirus pandemic has added a new level of uncertainty for first-year teachers.
Some people say they always knew they would be a teacher when they grew up. Katelynd Todd was not one of those people until earlier this year.
“When I think about it now, education was always intersected in the volunteer work that I did,” Todd said. “So I finally went, ‘Just give in. This is your calling.‘”
Todd was born and raised on Jacksonville’s Westside, graduating from Robert E. Lee High School. After graduation, she went on to the University of Florida before getting a full ride to the University of California, Berkeley, where she earned her master’s in public health.
Next month, Kaitlyn Todd will become “Ms. Todd,” teaching middle and high school students health at Grand Park Education Center, Duval County’s alternative school and Todd’s first choice.
“It’s quite literally been my chance in the world, and I want to be apart of that puzzle piece for someone else,” Todd said.
But Todd’s decision does not come without serious consideration. Todd was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder years ago.
“I think every teacher in America right now is just doing this constant weighing of opportunity cost and all these different priorities, and I can really only speak for myself. You know, I always have to think about my autoimmune disease. I have to always remember times I’m in the hospital or times when I feel like I can’t even walk and what that’s like. But then I also think about what school serves for a lot of kids, a lot of kids who are in some really tough situations and have exceptional needs that school has to serve,” Todd said. “There’s no other place that I’d rather be than the school I will be teaching at in August. There’s no place I’d rather be, regardless of all the things we’re going to have to do to make that sure I’m safe and that the kids are safe. I would do it a million times.”
While Todd’s case is the extreme case, every teacher is weighing those costs, whatever their decision may be.
Todd said she’s going to be upfront with her students and say, “While I love you, I can’t love on you.” Because if Todd gets sick, she will end up in the hospital. On some level, many teachers will likely be having those conversations with their students on the first day.