Teachers deal with daily struggles outside classroom walls

Bailey Kirkeby, News Editor

In addition to the stress and anxiety of keeping up with schoolwork, many students also deal with personal struggles outside of the classroom, such as health issues and family losses. However, the many struggles that teachers face are often overlooked.

Near the end of last summer, as the new school year was about to begin, CP English 9 and 12 teacher Debbie Dutra had to juggle classroom preparations while simultaneously going through a divorce.

“In August, I was trying to move and trying to get into another place to live, trying to separate all of our belongings, trying to do all of the things that teachers do to start the new year,” Dutra said.

Dutra says that teachers often have to hide their personal struggles so they can focus on teaching their students as effectively as possible.
“Oftentimes as teachers, when we walk through the classroom door… we have to try to pretend like all of these emotional things that we’re going through aren’t happening,” Dutra said. “We have to be professional for our students and give our students 110 percent.”

Some teachers endure physical trauma that affect them emotionally. On the first day of fall break in 2017, while on a training bike ride with three friends from her triathlon group, CP English 9 and Student Government teacher Jessica Anderson and her friends were hit by a Chevy Avalon.

“I was hit first, and I tore my lip and severely cut the inside of my bottom lip along with puncture wounds,” Anderson said. “I was followed by my friend who was completely run over by the truck and then my last friend, who only had minor injuries.”

Anderson says that this occurrence eventually broke up her triathlon group, as everyone was afraid to ride on the road.

“There’s something about thinking that someone would leave us lying there bleeding in the street without pulling over and at least seeing if we were okay or helping,” Anderson said. “It made us feel like we were worth nothing.”

The accident caused me to rethink my life and the people who mean the most to me and put my energy into those I care about the most.
– CP English 9 and 12 Government teacher Jessica Anderson

On March 7, 2019, Anderson testified in a trial against the man that allegedly ran her and her friends over. He was found not guilty.

Although the accident was unquestionably hard for Anderson, she says that it allowed her to gain a deeper appreciation for life.

“The accident caused me to rethink my life and the people who mean the most to me and put my energy into those I care about the most,” Anderson said. “It influenced me to live my best life every single day, knowing that every second mattered.”

Integrated Math 1 and 2+ teacher Dave Goodwin, whose wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, says that sharing personal struggles often depends on the class.

“No matter what job you’re in, your personal issues need to not impact your performance,” Goodwin said. “Some classes you’ll share information with. Some classes it doesn’t feel like they have the maturity to deal with.”

CP English 11 and 12 teacher Sam Chan says that the past five years of his life have been difficult due to an illness in the family. However, he feels comfortable sharing his situation with his students.

“[Your students] will pick up on things,” Chan said. “They see you every day, so if your attitude changes, they’ll ask what’s going on. Students have been supportive, and if a student is in the same situation, I try to relate to them, try to comfort them.”

Chan says that having connections with students forges a tighter bond between him and his students.

“If you’re too uptight and too professional about things, sometimes kids are not that receptive to you… It’s those little connections that help you get through to students,” Chan said.

Regardless of the numerous challenges that teachers face outside of school, most agree that their students motivate them to come back to work and continue providing the best possible education.

“At the end of the day, I get home and I’m tired, but I come right back the next day,” Dutra said. “The kids keep me going.”

“All teachers try their best,” Chan said. “When they wake up, when they come to work, they wanna make a difference.”