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‘Hope on the horizon’ as local teachers start getting COVID-19 vaccine

All Districts — Lincoln School special education teacher Ann Post believes there is “hope on the horizon” for teachers and education staff  across Kent County after receiving her first round of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

“Vaccines are a no-brainer for me,” Post said, “It isn’t about protecting me; I don’t have kids, but I have aging parents and medically fragile students in my classroom. It’s about protecting them.”

Reflecting on her vaccination appointment, Post explained how excited she felt about being a part of history.

“I got emotional getting my vaccine knowing it means there is hope on the horizon,” Post said. “If getting a shot is what I have to do to keep my students safe, I will.” 

Special education teacher Ann Post got her COVID-19 vaccine to protect her students

History in the Making

On Jan. 5, Kent ISD Special Education Center Program staff found out they were eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations and could immediately begin registering to receive their round-one vaccine. 

Center Programs Nurse Coordinator Rachel Vandenbrink was the first Kent ISD staff member to receive a vaccine through the Kent County Health Department. 

“It blew my mind how organized the health department was,” Vandenbrink said. “From my individual appointment to the flow of parking, everything felt like a well-oiled machine.”

Vandenbrink described the process step-by-step from check-in to returning to her car.

“The health department is using the whole basement level for vaccine stations, so they can take more than one person at a time,” Vandenbrink said. “When I arrived, they took my temperature and then I followed the blue lines down the hall to an open nurse station.”  

Vandenbrink said her nurse was very friendly and greeted her by saying, “Well, welcome to history in the making.” After getting her vaccination, then waiting 15 minutes for observation, Vandenbrink received a sticker and left feeling “like the sun was shining even though the sky is grey.” 

As the Center Programs Nurse Coordinator, Rachel Vandenbrink encourages people to trust the science behind the COVID-19 vaccine

KEC Beltline High School’s social worker Jennifer Stecco described hearing of vaccines as “the best news we got all day.”

“The whole day after my appointment I was excited, feeling of hope and sigh of relief,” Stecco said. “My experience was fabulous. I arrived early to my appointment and was in and out before my actual scheduled time.” 

Lincoln School special education teacher Trudy Bloem felt good about getting vaccinated and lowering her risk of carrying the virus into her classroom. 

“We have this opportunity — why would we not take it for ourselves and for our students?” Bloem asked. “I was not expecting the vaccine quite so soon, but I was thrilled to get mine.”

In Science, They Trust 

In response to concerns about the vaccine, Vandenbrink explained how it works as a “little road map” telling your body how to build a defense against the virus. 

“When people ask ‘How did this come out so fast?’ I tell them it’s because they had the whole world working on it, not just the minds and resources of one department,” Vandenbrink said. “They didn’t skip steps or cut corners.” 

Despite the newness of the vaccine, Vandenbrink and many of her fellow educators are putting their faith in the science behind the development of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

“Respect the science and get your vaccine,” Vandenbrink said. “It’s not about you; it’s about keeping the community safe.”

Teachers like Post plan to keep wearing their masks, even after receiving both rounds of the vaccine.  

“Masks work,” Post exclaimed repeatedly. “I have underlying health respiratory issues and I have not been sick since early March 2020. They work.”

Teachers around the country are trusting science and getting their vaccines. Elementary music teacher from Baton Rouge, Louisiana Cheryl Coker expressed her excitement through a Dr. Seuss-inspired rhyme, heard on NPR in a story from reporter Anya Kamenetz.

“I would take it in a box,
I would take it with a fox.

I would take in in a house, 
I would take it with a mouse.

Vaccinate me here or there,
Vaccinate me anywhere!”

Post said she and her fellow teaching staff will continue wearing extensive PPE in the classroom, and keep their distance from one another and students as much as possible until it becomes safe. 

“It’s exhausting, but this experience has made me a better teacher,” she said. “My students are my world. I’m in it for the outcome, not the income.”

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Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark is a reporter, covering Caledonia, Kenowa Hills, Godfrey-Lee, Grand Rapids and is a roving reporter for GRCC, Wyoming, Kentwood and Byron Center. She grew up in metro Detroit and her journalism journey brought her west to Grand Rapids via Michigan State University where she covered features and campus news for The State News. She also co-authored three 100-question guides to increase understanding and awareness of various human identities, through the MSU School of Journalism. Following graduation, she worked as a beat reporter for The Ann Arbor News - covering stories on education, community, prison arts and poetry.  Following a stint as a copywriter for a Grand Rapids area PR firm, she transitioned from communications to freelance writing and reporting for SNN. Read Alexis' full bio

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